6-Sigma, Bankers prevail in tourney

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The first round of the National Little League tournament started on Monday, and the lower-seeded teams shined despite the overcast skies.
   6-Sigma came into the tournament being the No. 7 seed, but a 5-4 final over No. 2 Valley Forge Auction was not exactly a huge upset, since the league has been so competitive and unpredictable this season.
   "I'm real proud of my boys -- they finished in seventh place during the season, but they had nothing to lose and came to play tonight," said 6-Sigma coach Kenny Hardin.
   In the top of the first, 6-Sigma grabbed the first run of the contest, when D.J. Reece smacked a hit up the middle to drive home Brandon Woodby.
   "We had a one-run lead and it looked like it might hold up for the rest of the game, but they came back and proved why their one of the better teams in the league," said Hardin.
   Valley Forge Auction's defense was a little rusty by committing two errors in the first frame, but 6-Sigma was on it by putting the bat on the ball three times, facing two strikes.
   Both teams were solid at the mound for most of the contest, and it wasn't until the bottom of the fourth that Valley Forge connected on their first hit of the game.
   Daniel Roberts led off to capture a hit up the middle as he was 2-for-2 at the plate on the evening, but the Auction wasn't able to make contact on the ball and bring him in for a score.
   6-Sigma increased its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth, as the first run crossed when Eric Norman hit a looper over second base to drive home Cody Tolley.
   Jake Howell smacked a single to right field which turned into a three-run shot before the dust had settled.
   The hit brought in Richard Lovelace and Norman, and a throw to second base trying to catch the runner rolled into the outfield and allowed Howell to round the bases and score.
   Valley Forged managed to score in the bottom of the fifth, after a line-drive to center-field by Brent Powell drove-in Garrett Dykes.
   In the final frame, Valley Forge trailed 5-1, but a late rally almost helped them pull out the come from behind victory.
   A leadoff hit by Roberts and a walk to Cody Jenkins put runners on second and third with one out.
   Jordan Hodges stepped up to the plate to crush a three-run homer, which nailed the top of the scoreboard to make it a one-run game.
   "I had Daniel Roberts come up big for us going 2-for-2, and then my son hit the home run, so that was special," said Valley Forge Auction coach Jerry Hodges. "This has been the best group of kids since I've been down here as far as being coachable, so you hate to go down like this."
   A double to the right-field fence from Christopher Dunbar brought the winning run at the plate, with Dykes trying to keep the comeback dream alive.
   A fly-out to the pitcher Howell made the third out and advanced 6-Sigma to the second round.
   "We had won the last 12 out of 13 games, and we were due to have a game like this, and you hate it for the boys more than anything," said Hodges.
   Carter Co. Bank 4
   Carter Co. Motors 3
   There was no doubt a Carter County team was going to win this contest, and a late-inning score gave Carter Co. Bank a slim victory over Carter Co. Motors.
   Having to fight through the adversity of losing two key players this season, Carter Co. Bank still managed to find a way to victory.
   "Some of my older players are going to have to step up. We lost two of our key players this season, and I hope my guys are ready to play with some heart for them two," said Carter Co. Bank coach David Mann.
   "We're down to nine players, so if one gets injured or don't show up then were out."
   Carter Co. Motors captured the first score of the game, when a throw from home plate to third base resulted in Ethan Meredith crossing the plate.
   "Our kids have played hard all year and have come a long ways, so I'm proud of them," said Carter Co. Motors coach Mike Fleenor. "We just didn't hit the ball well enough and that was basically what happened."
   The Bank answered by taking a 3-1 advantage in the bottom of the inning, as they took the lead off a line-drive double to center field from Justin Fuqua, bringing in Devin Arnett and Chase Depew.
   "They just hit the ball better than we did, and Chase Depew threw a good game for them, but we just came up a little short there at the end," said Fleenor.
   Two runs scored in the top of the fifth tied the contest, as a hit from Jake Hodge, which took a bad hop for the shortstop to field, brought home Nolan Childers.
   The tying run crossed after a throw to third base rolled into the outfield, allowing Hodge to cross for the score.
   Carter Co. Bank regained the lead in the bottom of the frame when a fielder's choice from Caleb Palm enabled Fuqua to score the go-ahead run.
   "We had some good play from the bottom of the lineup, and all you can ask for is a chance to win, and we got the job done," said Mann.
   After struggling a little in the prior inning, Depew came back strong in the final frame to capture two strikeouts and not allow Carter Co. Motors a hit to secure the win.
   "Chase Depew has a lot of will in him, and is a good kid," said Mann. He's 11 years old, so he still has another year left in little league."