By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — In so many respects, it was a home run. If the Equip Sports 9-and-under team had won their last game on June 25, the weekend would have been a grand slam.
The Boone-based Equip Sports Ministry hosted the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken 9U state baseball tournament on June 24-25, but the organizers had to be flexible.
“The event was scheduled for June 22-25,” said Equip 9U’s head coach Brandon Sutherland, “but rain last week forced us to compress the tournament to just two days, on Saturday and Sunday.”
Equip Sports Ministry is an outreach athletic program of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, offering sports-related opportunities at a number of age levels.
“Being asked to host a state tournament is an exciting opportunity,” said Sutherland. “Ten teams from across North Carolina were invited to escape the heat and enjoy the beautiful venues and views at Mount Vernon and Watauga High School. Because of the earlier, near constant rain, we had to play 18 games in just two days on two fields.”
They got it done. Organizing the competition field into pools for round robin play, then assigning and seeding the top teams into a bracket pf single elimination rounds. The Equip 9U All-Stars won their pool on Saturday by defeating Davidson County, 19-1, in four innings (a “mercy rule” or “run rule” was in effect) and South Park, Charlotte, 13-3 in six innings. Equip’s performance on Saturday earned the High Country’s only tournament representative the No. 3 seed as one of three 2-0 teams from the three round robin pools.
“Easton Casey started on the mound for us and earned the victory over Davidson,” Sutherland said in describing the first game win. “He allowed only two hits, one earned run and one walk. with four strikeouts during his two innings of work. Bryce Sutherland closed the game, allowing no hits, runs or walks with 1 strikeout in two innings of work.”
While Equip’s pitching silenced the Davidson bats, Coach Sutherland applauded the team’s offensive production.
“Greyson Powers and Bryce Sutherland lead the offense as each had two hits in the game. Equip managed 10 hits and drew 10 walks. Lawson Isaacs, Easton Casey, and Beckett Reeder each managed 2 RBIs in the game.”
The second game was against a strong Charlotte-based opponent, South Park.
“Because it was tournament play, we had to save arms and limit the number of pitches. Lawson Isaacs got the win on the hill for us over South Park,” said Sutherland. “Lawson surrendered no hits, one earned run and three walks in an inning and a third. Bryce Sutherland pitched one and two-thirds innings, allowing no hits, earned runs or walks. Hickson Beekman also threw one inning allowing 1 hit, 2 walks and no earned runs. He was followed on the mound by Beckett Reeder, who threw one and one third innings while allowing no hits, just one earned run on three walks with two strikeouts. Nathan Dilley closed the game with just three pitches, all strikes, to record the final two outs.”
With a 13-3 outcome, Equip also had to have good run production with their bats.
“We had 10 hits and drew five walks resulting in a busy day on the bases,” said Sutherland. “Greyson Powers, Lawson Isaacs, and Bryce Sutherland each had two hits in the game while Isaac Burroughs scored four runs. Isaacs accounted for five RBIs.”
Winning both games in pool play earned Equip the No. 3 seed in the 8-team, single elimination bracket leading to the championship. In the quarterfinal matchup, Equip handled No. 6-seeded Matthews, 14-1, before shutting out No. 2 Surry County in the semifinals, 3-0.
“Bryce Sutherland began on the mound and earned the win for Equip against Matthews,” said Coach Sutherland. “Bryce threw one inning and allowed just one hit, no runs and no walks in that opening frame.
“Lawson Isaacs threw two innings in relief,” added the head coach, “allowing one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in two innings’ work. Matthews recorded an unearned run in the second inning. Isaac Burroughs closed the game on the mound for the fourth inning with no hits, no walks and no runs allowed while recording one strikeout. At the plate Isaac Burroughs, Easton Casey and Bryce Sutherland managed two hits each and our batters, as a whole, demonstrated a lot of patience in drawing 13 walks. Noah Fisk led the way with three walks and two RBIs in the game.”
The semi-final game was an intense, defensive battle with Surry County.
“Greyson Powers was on the mound for Equip and threw a six-inning, no-hitter,” said Sutherland. “He allowed only two walks and recorded seven strikeouts. Meanwhile, Equip scored two runs in the first and one in the sixth, all with two outs. You have to give some credit to the Surry County pitchers in this pitching duel because Equip batters managed just four hits and drew only three walks. Easton Casey had two hits while Hickson Beekman and Clayton Isaacs managed a hit against a strong duo of pitchers from Surry.”
Equip came up short in the championship game at Watauga High on Sunday evening vs. a dominant Sandhills Optimist team.
“Sandhills went 5-0 on the weekend by surrendering only two runs through the five games. We were shut out in the final, managing only one hit by Isaac Burroughs and drawing two walks in the game, but overall we are proud of our team’s weekend performances.”
Equip 9U is coached by Sutherland, Sean Burroughs and Matt Fisk.
“On behalf of the entire Equip 9U program, we want to thank Watauga High School, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, and all the Equip families and volunteers for their work and support of the tournament,” Sutherland concluded. “And we would also like to thank our sponsors: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wendy’s, Farm Bureau, Coca-Cola, Blue Ridge Pediatrics, VPC Builders, Movement Mortgage, and Holton Mountain Rentals.”
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