The state champion Surry County Cal Ripken 12U Surry North All-Stars open play today at the 2014 Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament in Lewisburg, Tennessee.
Surry North begins pool play against Mount Pleasant (South Carolina) at 11:30 a.m. There are 12 teams competing at the regional, split into two divisions (American and National). Participating are teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.
Surry North will play five pool play games from today until Saturday. The top two seeds in each division after pool play advance to the single elimination bracket.
“These kids are exciting to watch,” Coach Daryll Johnson said. “They kill the theory that baseball is boring. They have the ability of playing lights-out defense, we have solid pitching and their bats are explosive.”
After winning the district tournament at White Plains High School in early in July, Surry North needed to come from behind in a best-of-three state championship series against the Carolina Metros (Charlotte) last week in Huntersville.
In the opener, Surry North fell 16-13 in a game it trailed 13-3 early. Surry North beat the Metros 8-7 in Game 2 to even the series behind a complete game pitching effort from Chase Swartz.
In the decisive third game, Surry North trailed the Metros 6-5 heading into the top of the sixth. Baylor Brinkley led off the sixth inning with a walk before Jonathan Smith drilled a 1-2 pitch to the gap in right center field. The ball glanced off the outfielder’s glove and rolled to the fence as Smith rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
Brett Johnson singled and scored off a triple from Nick Badgett for an 8-6 lead. Clay Tompkins hit a two-out double to score a run, and Chase Swartz’s base hit drove in another run for the final score.
Tompkins pitched four innings and gave up five runs. Johnson entered in the fifth and allowed one run. Johnson gave up a two-out base hit in the sixth, but got the final out on a called strike three with a curveball.
“I’ve had these kids together for approximately a month and a half,” coach Johnson said. “These kids, they never give up. Credit coach (David) Welch, our hitting coach. He’s done a great job with these kids. The bats have improved tremendously.
“We’ve had a lot of situational hits, hit and runs, bunts, steals, things like that.”
Johnson said a few of his players (Swartz, Badgett, Johnson) were on last year’s squad that finished second in the state after falling to Porter Ridge.
“This is the first time a Surry North team has won a state championship in quite some time,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to get here, because of the competition.”
Surry North’s 11U All-Star team won its district tournament and finished second in the state. The 11U team, coached by Eric Montgomery, is playing in Altamonte Springs, Florida at the regionals. Their first game is today at 4 p.m. against Glen Allen (Va.).
This year’s Cal Ripken 13U World Series will be held in Aberdeen, Maryland Aug. 8-16. The 12U World Series is Alachua, Florida Aug. 6-12.