Troup National wins state tournament
By Kevin Eckleberry
ROBERTA – It was a championship Sunday for the Troup National all-stars.
The Troup National 11-12-year-old all-stars came into Sunday morning’s game against Seminole County needing one more victory to wrap up the state title.
They made it happen.
With Colton Esposito delivering a lock-down, dominant pitching performance, Troup National eased its way to a 6-3 victory to secure the championship and earn a spot in the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in Oxford, Ala.
Troup National finished state play with a 6-1 record, and it is 10-1 this summer including the district tournament.
Troup National will be one of 12 teams participating in the World Series that gets under way on Aug. 5 in Oxford, Ala.
“We’ll try to stay humble, try to stay hungry,” Troup National coach Curt Longshore said. “That’s our motto we’ve pretty much adopted. And who knows what we’ll do. I know the road will be tougher, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Seminole County is the only team that has beaten Troup National this summer.
In the first round of the state tournament two weekends ago, it was Seminole County edging Troup National 6-5.
Troup National still ended up winning its four-team pool with a 2-1 record to advance to the double-elimination portion of the state tournament.
After beating Crawford County on Friday, Troup National secured two wins over Wrens on Saturday to get within one victory of a title.
Had Troup National lost Sunday’s first game, it would have had one more opportunity to beat Seminole County.
Troup National only needed the one game, though, thanks in large part to the performance of Esposito.
In his five innings on the mound, Esposito gave up no hits and no runs, and he was unable to work the sixth inning because he exceeded his pitch count.
Seminole County got a three-run home run from Jack Davis in the top of the sixth to make things interesting, but Troup National pitcher Trevor Booton got the final out to finish things off.
Troup National jumped on top with two runs in the first inning on RBI hits by Esposito and Steven Hill.
Troup National padded its lead with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, with Dallas Pearson coming through with an RBI double.
Hill and Rocky Pemberton also drove in runs in the inning.
In the fifth inning, Blake Sheppard’s RBI double pushed the lead to 6-0 and capped the scoring for Troup.
“Nobody has hit the ball better these last two ballgames than Steven Hill and Blake Sheppard and Dallas Pearson,” Longshore said. “They’re just locked in. And we’ve always got Trevor, and Colton. And Avery Hewell had a big hit (Saturday) to tie it up. We win with small ball. We win with defense. We win with pitching.”
Longshore added that “we win in different ways. We win with different people coming through in the clutch.”
Esposito hit a batter and walked another one in the top of the first, but he got a strikeout to end that threat.
Troup went to work in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs, Booton walked, and Esposito ripped the ball down the left-field line for an RBI double.
Hill followed with an RBI single, and Troup National led 2-0.
It remained a two-run game until the bottom of the fifth.
Esposito led off with a base hit, and Sheppard followed with a double, putting men on second and third.
Hill put the ball in play for an RBI groundout, and Pemberton followed with a sacrifice fly to give Troup a 4-0 lead.
After a Hewell double, Pearson’s double pushed the lead to 5-0.
In the top of the fifth, Seminole County put runners on with a walk and a hit batter, but Esposito got a strikeout to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Esposito double, and Sheppard’s double brought in one more run.
Seminole County didn’t go away quietly.
With two outs, Davis hit one over the center-field fence for a three-run home run.
After a base hit, Gryson Cockrell made a nice running catch in center field to end the suspense.
Had the ball fallen, Seminole County would have brought the tying run to the plate.
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TEAM MEMBERS: Preston Pressley, Colton Esposito, Trevor Booton, Blake Sheppard, Avery Hewell, Gryson Cockrell, Steven Hill, Bryson Monteith, Dallas Pearson, Rocky Pemberton, Jimmie Jackson and Lane Christie. Curt Longshore is the head coach, and the assistant coaches are Glenn Jackson and Jackson Shelnutt.