WILSON — Clayton’s run to a berth in the N.C. Minors ( 9-10 Year Old) Little League Baseball Tournament ran into a major snag Monday at Southern Bank Stadium.
That snag was tournament host Wilson, which ran its way into the championship finals against Stedman with a 12-2, five-inning victory. The loss, which eliminated Clayton from the District 6 tournament, was the second to Wilson in the event.
Clayton dropped a 4-3 decision earlier in the Area A portion of the tournament, and carried that loss into the district’s “Final Four,” which began on July 5.
After dropping its Area A opener to Wilson, Clayton reeled off three consecutive victories including a 14-4 thumping of the Fayetteville Kiwanis on July 5 in the losers bracket semifinals.
However, it was the Clayton All-Stars who were reeling Monday night under a relentless running game by Wilson, which displayed intense aggressiveness on the base paths, stealing ten bases and taking advantage of five wild pitches.
That running game enabled Wilson to overcome a 2-0 first inning deficit, pushing across two runs in the second and third innings, the in the fourth and five in the fifth.
“They have a tendency to do that and pick up a base,” said Clayton coach Lance Rhoades. “We just didn’t catch up right away, we didn’t make the corrections until later.
“And when we did that, they (Wilson) started hitting the ball.”
Wilson pounded out 10 hits, but was aided by four Clayton errors and seven walks.
Rhoades said he wasn’t sure if had the All-Stars had defeated Wilson, if the pitchers would have had enough for a potential two-game series against Stedman: “We just ran into a buzz saw tonight; they did everything right and we did everything wrong.”
The All-Stars, which had belted a total of 37 hits in its three victories, managed only five against Wilson pitching, two of those in the two-run first inning rally.
“We did a lot of first-pitch swinging,” Rhoades said, “We didn’t make their pitchers work a lot, just swung at too many first pitches, which is uncharacteristic for this team.
“We had at lest three ground balls hit right back to the pitcher and another lined to him. You can’t start any type of rally like that.”
In Sunday’s victory over Fayetteville, Clayton broke open a tight battle with a five-run third inning for an 11-4 lead.
“Overall, it was a heck of an effort by our kids,” Rhoades said, noting in previous years, the best record by Clayton teams in the district tournament had been one win and two losses. “I couldn’t be any prouder of them; a fantastic effort from all of them.”