by Jason Hanes
The rains that washed out most of Saturday afternoon’s games at the Triple Crown Summer Nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C. made a mess of the Sunday schedule, most especially for teams in the loser’s brackets.
For some teams, it meant having to win four games in one day in order to win a championship. That can be a tall task for any age level, but especially for teams playing in the 9u division.
One team, however, proved to be up to the assignment as the Carolina All Stars won four games in a row on Sunday, closing out the day with a 14-6 walk-off run rule victory over 757 Dirtbags Platinum (VA) to claim the 9u championship.
“This team’s only been together for three weeks,” said Carolina All Stars head coach Matt Phillips. “For them to come together and show the heart and determination is amazing. There were so many bumps and bruises and kids getting hurt, but we finished with the same kids we started with.”
Coach Phillips knows the Sunday success wouldn’t have been possible without the parents of his squad.
“Big credit to the parents too,” he said. “They were like a NASCAR pit crew in there in between every inning, keeping the kids hydrated and fed. It was really awesome.”
The day on Field 8 essentially started with an arrival at 7 a.m. From there, the Carolina All Stars (NC) won the 8 a.m. game over Beaver Valley Red (PA), 11-6. In Game 2, the Carolina All Stars pulled away for a 17-9 victory over TriStar Thunder (TN) to reach the championship round.
“Josh Beam pitched the first game for us,” said Phillips. “I’ve coached him for three years and that is the best game he’s ever pitched in his life. We needed it because we did not have many pitchers left, but we got four solid innings out of him.”
To win the championship, Carolina would need to defeat 757 Dirtbags Platinum twice. In the first meeting, with the score tied going to the sixth, the All Stars plated three runs, then held on for a 9-7 victory to force a deciding game.
In the final game of the tournament, Dirtbags 757 Platinum trailed 11-3, but momentum started to creep towards their side. After keeping Carolina off the board in the bottom of the fourth, three runs would make it 11-6 in the top of the fifth, keeping hope alive for the squad.
However, in the bottom of the fifth, Carolina would walk it off for a win. With two runs already across, Carson Rivenbark would smack a single into right, scoring the winning run and giving his team the 9u championship.
“It felt good to help my team win,” Rivenbark said. “I was just trying to hit it hard to get that run to win the game.”
“This last game was the toughest one,” Phillips said. “(Dirtbags 757 Platinum) had a pitcher in there that was throwing a lot of heat. We found a way to get the bat on the ball and just manufacture runs wherever they could.
“I’m really impressed with our heart and our grit,” he continued. “We got down in a couple of situations, but they just fought back. They never lost that fight; they continued to fight all day.”
Rivenbark had first-hand knowledge on how hard it was in the heat and humidity Sunday, but with a championship under his team’s belt, he knows what to do next.
“It was tough because you could have gotten overheated. Now, I can go to the pool!”