LUMBERTON — After Louisiana and Alabama split the first two meetings on Monday in the championship bracket of the Dixie Youth Coach Pitch World Series, it was only fitting that the teams got a chance at a rubber match in Tuesday’s championship game at the Ray Pennington Athletic Complex.
Alabama cruised to the title game, but in the third and final meeting between the teams, it was Louisiana who had the ball bounce their way to win the World Series title 9-1.
“For our kids and our fan base, this is something unbelievable,” Louisiana coach Hunter Smith said. “To be able to be a part of this with my son, and share this with him means the world.
“It was a great win for our team, for our fans, for us coaches and the community back home in Ruston, La. We are proud to take this back to Ruston, La.”
After coming on board with the team a few weeks prior to the World Series when Brandon Belcher was forced to step down due to prior obligations, Smith helped guide Louisiana and its stingy defense to a 6-1 record in the tournament. His team was awarded the bye on Monday when he pulled the slip out of the hat with Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana all ended Monday with one loss.
While Alabama came in warmed up after its 10-0 win in four innings over Tennessee, the offense of Louisiana struck early and often, scoring runs in each of the first five innings.
“The top of our lineup got it going. The back end of our lineup has been really good this weekend, and the top end finally got cranking,” Smith said. “Once they get going, it gets pretty interesting pretty fast.”
The big inning for Louisiana came in the top of the fourth when three runs crossed to go up 7-1, and seeming to put the nail in Alabama’s coffin. An error plated the first run in that frame, while an RBI single from Hudson Wilkerson and an RBI ground out from Keegan Compton pushed the last two runs home.
The offense tallied 13 hits in the game, with two coming off the bat of Casen Willis , who also had three RBIs to score the first and last runs of the game. Willis had an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run single in the seventh inning.
After Willis’ run-scoring hit in the first inning, Alabama answered in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 1-all after one inning. From there, Alabama went quiet and errors started to pile up on its defense that had been consistently strong for most of the tournament.
“They’ve got a great program, great kids, great coaches, great fans and they played their heart out all weekend,” Smith said.
Alabama’s Liam Bantau, Colt Wilson, Tyler Surles, Jeremy Griggs and Beckham Duncan each had a hit in the championship game. Levi Summers had the lone RBI for Alabama.
For Louisiana’s offense, Austin Lee, Jacob Brantley and Clarence Menyweather each had two hits.
In the first game on Tuesday, Alabama posted six runs in the bottom of the third to fuel its mercy-rule victory over Tennessee.
Alabama’s defense sat Tennessee’s first nine batters down in order, with only two hits coming from Tennessee in the game. Cody Burgess and Aidam Holland both had the only hits for their team.
Bantau, Surles and Sam Hall each had two RBIs in the win that set up the championship contest.
Lumberton’s Jayden Graham was the batting champion of the tournament after going 8-for-9 in the host team’s four games. Georgia won the sportsmanship championship.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.