Border Belt stopped short
Tallahassee takes regional title with 5-4 win
by By Scott Schlaufman
LUMBERTON — With a one-run lead and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of Sunday’s Babe Ruth 13- t0 15-year-old Southeast Regional Championship game, only one out kept Lumberton Border Belt from a trip to the division’s World Series in Loudoun County, Va.
It was as close as Lumberton got.
Tallahassee (Fla.) took advantage of two errors and one passed ball, leaving the game with a 5-4 win, the regional title and the same two outs on the board. It sent the day full circle for Lumberton, who had beat Summit Point (W.V.) 2-1 in the semifinals in a similar scenario.
“It’s a baseball game, as bad as we hate it,” Lumberton manager Thomas Odum said. “We had a couple of opportunities to close it out, but we got to this game on an error and karma’s tough because we lost on a couple of errors, but there’s other things we could have done (to win it.)”
It was Border Belt’s only loss of the tournament and is the second straight year the team has lost in the regional finals.
As Lumberton pitcher Evan Odum walked off the field following the loss, he took the cap off his head and spiked it to the ground in frustration. He entered the final inning with only a handful of hits allowed and no walks.
He started the bottom of the seventh with a strikeout, then allowed a single to right. Another strikeout put the game’s final out within reach.
But the defense sputtered on a fly to short right field by Trevor McElroy that landed between the right fielder and second baseman, moving the runner to third.
The next batter hit a grounder to the second baseman, who overthrew first, allowing a run to tie the game at 4-4 while leaving the two remaining runners in scoring position.
A wild pitch by Odum then allowed McElroy to score.
“It’s a very emotional loss. I don’t want to feel it again,” said Lumberton right fielder Travis Suggs.
The wild pitch was a rare slip for the Border Belt pitchers, who provided the backbone on the final day. Both Odum and Cole Lovin threw complete games. Lovin narrowly beat Summit Point’s Bradley Davis in a pitcher’s dual that had each starter finish with 12 strikeouts.
“They did as great as they could do. They couldn’t have done any better,” Thomas Odum said. “They pitched two perfect games, we should have just done our job hitting the ball.”
Offensively, Lumberton didn’t put up the same numbers it had in the first three days of the tournament. In pool play, Border Belt scored 58 total runs and had at least 14 in each of the the four games.
Against Tallahassee, Lumberton fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but eventually scored in the fourth. The inning started with Border Belt loading the bases with no outs. Gage Hardin then walked to score Raleigh Forrest and a ground out by Alec Brewington scored Gage Hardin to tie it up.
Lumberton took the lead the next inning when Austin Hammonds walked, then scored on a triple by Travis Suggs. Suggs scored on a grounder by Forrest to go up 4-2.
In the first game, Lumberton scored both runs in the bottom of the seventh after trailing 1-0 since the second inning.
Hammonds started the seventh with a strikeout and Suggs reached base on a walk and then stole second. He scored on an infield single by Forrest, making a head-first slide under the tag to make it 1-1.
Forrest was called out on a fielder’s choice by Daniel Oxendine, who reached base and stole second. Oxendine scored when Nolan Locklear hit a fly ball to right field that was dropped.
Many of the players on Border Belt have been playing together since they were 8 years old. Over the years the players have won state and district titles in both Babe Ruth and Dixie Youth Baseball.
As Majors in 2010, they won the Dixie Youth World Series in 2010 and played in nationally televised games as part of the National Youth Baseball Championships in Memphis, Tenn.
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