SMITHFIELD — In his eight years as a youth baseball coach, Southern Johnston Baseball Association South All-Stars head coach Chad McLamb had never witnessed anything like it.
The SJBA South team, which had scored 14 runs combined in its first two games of the District V Tournament, scored 21 runs in the second inning last week en route to a 24-1 victory over Clayton in the championship game of the Little League (12-and-under) division at Smithfield Community Park.
South hit six home runs in the big inning, including back-to-back-to-back blasts by Ben Stafford, Josh Parker and Clayton Blackman.
The final homer of the inning was a grand slam by Blackman, giving South a 24-0 lead.
“I’ve never seen an inning like that,” McLamb said after getting doused by a cooler of water after the game. “We’ve got guys up and down the lineup who can hit home runs.
“Everybody can really hit. They just put it all together in that one inning.”
The game, scheduled for six innings, was called after three innings because of a 12-run rule.
Parker started things off for South with a three-run homer in the first. Then came the huge second inning.
Aubrey Pollard hit the first homer of the second, a three-run shot. Javier Amezquita followed with a solo homer to make it 7-0. Two more runs pushed the advantage to 9-0.
After a Clayton pitching change, Staffford started the three consecutive streak of long balls with a two-run blast and Parker and Blackman followed with solo shots. Blackman’s slam was the capper.
“There is really not a hole in our lineup,” McLamb said. “We’ve got deep pitching. We pitched three guys today and only one of them pitched the first two games.”
McLamb, whose team advances to the Tar Heel League state tournament in Williamston beginning Thursday, said South may have been pressing before the championship because it had come into the tournament as the favorite.
“We took some batting practice (last) Friday night and got real relaxed and had some fun with it,” McLamb said. “We took some BP today and I think they were very relaxed. When they are relaxed, they can really hit.”
After rain postponed play for three days in the tournament, Clayton faced the Cleveland All-Stars in the loser’s bracket final and won 6-3.
Clayton did its share of hitting homers in that contest, getting a two-run homer from Layton Parker in a four-run first inning and solo shots in the second from Preston Slater and Ethan Schlecht in the third to take a 6-0 lead.
Schlecht, a left-hander, went the distance on the mound, giving up a run in the fifth and two in the sixth.
But it was all SJBA South in the championship game.
“We lost (to Cleveland) the first time we played them,” Clayton coach Pat Cunningham said. “Ethan had been pitching real strong and we stayed with him because we were shooting for the championship.
“We knew were up against a wall (against SJBA South) because we were thin on pitching.”
Against South, Clayton avoided the shutout by scoring a run in the third inning on Connor Howard’s RBI single to right field.
“I told them that I don’t think I’ve been as proud of a team as I was of them,” Cunningham said of the way his team handled the big loss. “I’m really proud of the way that they reacted to that.
“They were just happy to be in the championship game, happy to be out there.”
McLamb and his district champions will head to Williamston with a lot of confidence after a 3-0 run through the district and the convincing victory in the title game.
“They really enjoy being with each other and it makes a difference,” McLamb said of his team.
“Our pitching depth, hitting depth has carried us and it will probably continue to carry us.”