Citizens, T-N-C to meet in AL final

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   While one team overcomes a season-long struggle, another hangs on after a forfeit decided the outcome in Carter County American Little League semifinal action.
   It was Citizens Bank getting over the hump of defeating Elizabethton Federal, after they had suffered three loses in regular season, in a 6-1 final Thursday night.
   A fast deposit of runs set the tone for the remainder of the game, with Citizens Bank advancing to the championship tonight against T-N-C Lawncare.
   "We hit the baseball really well, and played a total game with real good defense and pitching," said Citizens Bank coach Mickey Taylor. "We played them every game real close. They beat us by one run in two games and then another close one, but tonight everybody played well."
   Citizens started off with a couple of hits to grab the early lead. Jake Hubbard nailed a double to left field, driving in Tyler Ballard, who managed to reach base on a single.
   A rip up the middle by Jordan Taylor brought home Hubbard, as Citizens was having plenty of success with the early bats.
   Justin Nave knocked a double to left field to drive home two more runs, with Taylor and Zach Naylor crossing the plate.
   Citizens added another run in the top of the second to go up 5-0 after two frames.
   "We're real happy to get this far, and we're a real young team and have gotten better every year," said Taylor. "The kids have made progress, and we're happy with how they've played."
   Ballard managed to get on base after a single to start the frame, and a steal at home produced his second run of the evening.
   David McInturff connected on 11 strike-outs for Elizabethton Federal from the mound, but another hit up the middle from Taylor in the top of the fourth brought home Logan Carden to put Citizens up by six runs.
   "We got down early and then they just started hitting the gaps on us," said Elizabethton Federal assistant coach Jim Shell. "They came out hitting the ball good and then it seemed like we hit it right to them."
   Elizabethton responded by capturing a run when McInturff grounded out to the second-baseman to bring in Dustin Turbyfill.
   After having bases loaded in the final frame, Elizabethton Federal was unable to score any more runs, and will play Cline-Holder for third place tonight.
   "We beat them five times and you just can't expect to keep on beating a team," said Shell. "We beat them in the jamboree, a scrimmage, and three times in regular season, but we've done well. We'll just go out for that third place. That's about all we can do now."
   T-N-C Lawncare defeats Cline-Holder by forfeit
   The scoreboard didn't reflect the outcome in the battle between Cline-Holder and T-N-C Lawncare, as a 3-2 final was overturned in a forfeit benefiting T-N-C.
   Cline-Holder appeared to be on its way to knocking off the number one seed of the American Little League tournament, but in the final frame a controversy over a player not getting his turn at bat was ruled in the favor of T-N-C, which advances it to the championship.
   "We play the championship game against Citizens Bank, and it should be a good one," said T-N-C Lawncare coach Jerry Pierce. "We'll have to start hitting the ball again. We haven't done that the past three or four games, and we've hit it well all year long until the last of the year here."
   T-N-C struck first in the contest when Jacob Hitchcock knocked a hit to right field, driving home Tyler Jaynes in the bottom of the second frame.
   Cline-Holder came back strong in the top of the third, after Kyle Wash drilled a line drive to left field which brought in Matthew Street and Zack Boles to take the lead.
   Another run was added when a grounder to the shortstop by Logan Andrews enabled Jordan Banner to come home to give Cline-Holder a 3-1 advantage during the third.
   T-N-C closed the gap back down to one after an error on a fly brought home Hitchcock.
   Cline Holder avoid from suffering any other damage previously when a double play resulted in a throw from first base to the catcher for a tag out at home plate.
   Going into the bottom of the final frame, the game came to a halt after Cline-Holder had failed to bat one of its subs, who was next on the list to come to the plate.
   The game proceeded after a protest with T-N-C trailing by one run, as it was either needing two runs to win or a final decision in their favor of league rules.
   "League tournament play and rules state you must play your kids for at least three consecutive outs and one turn at bat, and they didn't do that," said Pierce. "I didn't want to do it -- it tears my heart out -- but I had to do what was best for my team, and I hate it for them.
   "If I didn't do it though, then I couldn't have lived with myself knowing I didn't coach the best possible game for my team."
   After the first two batters got on base, with the first one being walked and the next hitter getting struck with a pitch, the final play was simply miraculous but also costly.
   "We're out here to help the kids, and we had a lot of tears afterwards, but as far as we're concerned that was our championship game," said Cline-Holder coach Eric Haun. "That was our win out on the field, even though the statistics might not show it, but every kid battled his heart out tonight.
   "They're heads will be high and we'll come out and play tomorrow night and see what we can do."
   A pop-up to the first-baseman resulted in the first out, and then a tag on base after the runner on first moved toward second created the second out.
   During the same play a throw from first to third went past the third-baseman, which forced T-N-C's to make the decision to come home.
   After retrieving the ball at third, a throw home captured the third out, with catcher Christian Grissom making the tag on Austin Nanney before reaching home plate.
   The triple-play had given Cline Holder a one-run win on the scoreboard, but by not allowing a run to cross in the final frame to force an extra inning, the player who needed to bat was not given a chance.
   "We won it on the field and that's how we feel about it, but there's league rules and regulations and the way it looks we didn't abide by them tonight," said Haun. "We put our guys in position to play their innings and get their bats, and we had him up the next time to bat, but we'll take the loss for we know we won it on the field."
   Tonight's championship will be at 8. The consolation is set for 6.