Elizabethton 11s knocks off Sparta in state opener   

By Tim Chambers
star staff
tchambers@starhq.com

  CHARLOTTE, Tenn.--Sparta stood toe to toe like a prize heavyweight against the Elizabethton 11-year-old all-stars in the first inning. In the second round, it got its fanny knocked off.
  Exploding for five runs in the second inning, Elizabethton held on for a 6-4 win in the first round of the 11-year old all-star state tournament.
  "These kids played their hearts out and never gave up," stated Elizabethton skipper Richard Sheffield. "We had some kids in the bottom of our order who played outstanding."
  "It felt good to win the first one because you want to avoid the losers' bracket. These kids believe they can win this thing. I believe they can do it if we hit the ball and play good defense." "I am proud of all these players."
  After a scoreless first -- Nick Campbell's great left-field catch for Elizabethton in the first inning saved a run -- the 'Besty boys came out bombing, with Casey Sheffield reaching on an error, followed by a Seth Fleenor walk.
  Jake Howell roped an RBI double to the left-field fence setting the tone for massive run production. Clayton "Mud" Ray delivered an infield single for a two-run cushion.
  Said Howell, "Sparta has a great team and we were just happy to win."
  Campbell slapped a double off the right-field wall and later scored on a solid single off the bat of Josh Peterson. A Lucas Birchfield groundout gave Elizabethton its five-run advantage.
  "We can play better but I am happy with the win," said Peterson.
  Sparta struck for three in the third on hits from Conor Sparkman and Jackson Butcher, but the boys for 'Betsy dug deep led by Stacey Sheffield, who retired the next two batters to preserve the lead.
  Elizabethton picked up a solo run in the fourth after Peterson doubled and later scored on a hard grounder off the bat of Stacey Sheffield. Stacey was brilliant until the sixth, when two walks brought in brother Casey to close the deal.
  Giving fans his version of John Smoltz, the mighty Casey recorded the next two outs to push Elizabethton into the second round of the winners' bracket.
  "I didn't want to get to their third batter," Casey said. "He was a giant and had killed the ball all day."
  Peterson led the offense by going 3-for-4 with two doubles while Howell collected two hits including a two-bagger. C.J. Bowling, Ray, Campbell and Shaun Bentley had the other hits for Elizabethton.
  Stacey Sheffield allowed five hits and struck out eight. Brooks Cochran had some great stops at third base while Corey Beam and Taylor Gouge had fine outings.
  "I think everyone did a great job," said Stacey. " I am pleased that we won."
  Cody Hill made the defensive play of the night, snaring a sure triple off a hard line drive to prevent two runners from scoring.
  Elizabethton plays again on Monday at 7 p.m. central time.
  "I was nervous at first, but now I think we can win it all," Campbell said.