By VAN HOLLAND
WILLIAMSTON – The Tarboro 12-under All-Stars continued to find ways to score runs in the opening round of the Little Tar Heel state tournament Thursday night. Tarboro finally woke up in the third inning after trailing by one and scored two runs in the that inning, two in the fourth and two in the sixth to defeat South Johnston 9-6.
"Without the mistakes that we did make, the game shouldn't have been as close as it was," Tarboro coach Bill Howerin said. "We helped them along with the mistakes that we made in the field. With that being said, if we don't play better then that then we are going to be in trouble."
Tarboro's first five hitters were able to produce at least one RBI apiece in the game. Tarboro was able to piece together six hits and took advantage of six South Johnston errors, which helped Tarboro along the way to score four runs off of the errors.
Tarboro started out like a ball of fire scoring three runs in the first inning when Dillon Johnson, Justin Ramirez and Jesus Garcia had three consecutive hits to start the game. Garcia drove in Johnson and Ramirez scored off an error when the ball was relayed back into the infield. Mike Wiggins then grounded out to second to score Garcia to give Tarboro a 3-0 lead.
That lead didn't last long, because Johnson, who started on the mound, gave up a lead off double and then his defense made an error behind him. Ben Stafford then hit a three-run homer to left field to tie the game at 3-3.
In the second, South Johnston was able to take a 4-3 lead when Tarboro made yet another error.
"Our defense just wasn't in it the first few innings," Howerin said. "We finally settled in and made some good plays."
Johnson threw just two innings giving up four runs on four hits and walked two. Mason Riley, who earned the win, relieved Johnson in the third and threw three plus innings. He gave up two runs on two hits, while walking two and struck out four. Garcia closed the game out in the sixth after Riley got into trouble. Garcia struck out a batter.
"Our pitching was fairly well," Howerin said. "They got the hitters out and they were effective. Our defense didn't help them out like I thought they should have. I think we went to sleep on a couple of situations."
Tarboro committed four errors in the field, which is the same amount they committed in five games in the district tournament.
Howerin wasn't pleased with his team's defensive performance and knows they have to clean it up if they want to advance through the winner's bracket in the tournament like they did in the district.
Tarboro got their offense rolling again in the third inning when they scored two runs off of RBIs by Wiggins and Hunter Medford.
Tarboro tacked on two more runs in the fourth when the first run scored on a wild pitch and then Johnson grounded out to shortstop to score the second run.
They added two insurance runs in the sixth. One came off of a South Johnston error and the other run scored on a Ramirez double off the top of the centerfield fence.
"Our offense took advantage of a lot of their mistakes," Howerin said. "We drove some runs in, but it was from the help of them making errors in the field that put our runners in scoring position."
Tarboro plays Rocky Mount at 10 a.m. today. Rocky Mount advanced by defeating the host team Williamston 2-0.
Rocky Mount is the defending state champions and Howerin knows if his team wants to have a chance to win then they have to clean up their act defensively and make the routine plays behind his pitchers.
Howerin is going to ride his ace Garcia in hopes of advancing to the third round in the winner's bracket.
"The key to winning is to play solid defense and make the plays," Howerin said. "I am going to ride Jesus as long as I can in hopes of getting a win."