Birchfield Construction takes tourney title

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   After a slow start to begin the season, Birchfield's Construction ended the later part of the year as the most dominant team in Carter County Major League boys play.
   On Friday night, Birchfield's scored a season-ending victory in the league championship game, defeating Horseless Carriage by a final of 3-1.
   "We began the season slow in getting the wins, but our defense really started coming around toward the end the year," said Birchfield's Construction manager Dan Parke. "That's what got us the win."
   Horseless Carriage saw the game slip away in the third frame, when five walks scored two runs to give Birchfield's the title.
   In the top of the first, Horseless Carriage scored their only run of the contest, when a double to centerfield by Jake Vines drove home Nick Keranan.
   Dustin Johnson attempted to make his way to home on the hit, but a throw to catcher Jeff Wilson resulted in a tag at home plate.
   "We played aggressive and that's the kind of style that I like to play," said Horseless Carriage manager Tim Vines. "I sent that one runner home and he got threw out, but that's the way we play."
   Birchfield's committed two errors in the first inning, and with two runners on base a fielder's choice from Jerry Agan looked as if it was going to score Jake Vines. However, a throw from third-baseman Matthew Burrell to Wilson captured the out at home.
   After making the saving throw at home Wilson proceeded in throwing back to third with a tag on James Coffey to complete a double play.
   "Burrell made a good tag to get the runner out," said Parke. "I'll take great defense over offense any day of the week."
   Horseless had two costly errors in the bottom of the frame with the first one coming off a fielded hit from Burrell.
   Pitcher Holden Vines kept the Birchfield's hitters in check by throwing three strikeouts.
   Unfortunately with two outs, a throw back to the mound went past the pitcher and allowed Burrell to tie the contest.
   Richard Buchanan pitched for Birchfield's in the first two innings, as he came on strong in the second frame by connecting on three consecutive k's to keep David Johnson from scoring after getting on base off an error.
   Holden Vines matched his effort by retiring three straight batters at the plate, after an error was committed on a hit from Cody Hilton.
   Wilson was brought to the mound in the top of the third, but not before there was controversy on whether or not he was eligible to pitch, which resulted in a 12 and 1/2 minute delay.
   "The problem with the rule was in Little League tournament rules, you can't pitch the same pitcher in two consecutive games," said Vines. "There is an amendment that was put in place, and it was interrupted by the commissioner that this ruling didn't apply to the District or Regional tournaments."
   Although he struggled at the plate by going 0-2 on the evening, Wilson was phenomenal through the two frames he pitched, striking out all three Horseless Carriage hitters during the top of the third.
   "It was a real good job from Wilson, and Richard pitched great too in the start of the game for us," said Parke.
   It was a steady performance for Holden Vines at the mound the entire game, as he gave up no hits the entire way.
   But with five walks being committed in the bottom of the third, Daniel Fleenor and Buchanan came home to give Birchfield's a 3-1 advantage heading into the final frame.
   "We had a good year, and these we're some of the best kids I have ever coached in my 14 years of coaching," said Vines. "They had a lot of heart, very cooperative, and did everything I asked them too, but the great thing is I now have ten new friends."
   Wilson continued to show his strength from the mound in Horseless Carriage final attempt at bat. Coffey was able to get on base from an error, but Wilson was in the groove to put away the other batters by striking them out.
   "We picked "Jeff" up in mid-season, and he brought a lot to this team, but not so much with his play. It was the confidence he brought to all of his teammates in being able to win," said Parke.