District Champs!

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

Andrew Giermak

PORTSMOUTH – Behind a complete game pitching performance by Tucker Rhoads and a late three-run homer by Josh Howard, Bennett’s Creek National won their third straight must-win game and second game versus Charles Peete to take the District 6 Little League Tournament championship, 4-2, Wednesday evening at Olive Branch Little League.

Last Friday night, Charles Peete sent BC into the loser’s bracket of the tournament with a 7-1 score.

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BC survived Monday night with a five-run last inning comeback for a 10-9 victory versus Churchland.

BC trailed 6-0 to CP after two innings Tuesday night before scoring 12 unanswered runs to force Wednesday’s game.

Wednesday turned into a pitcher’s duel with Rhoads for BC going pitch-for-pitch with CP’s Dorian Smith, who was the winning pitcher back on Friday.

Both teams went scoreless through the first two frames with Smith registering four strikeouts already and Rhoads relying on his defense.

All four BC infielders and Jordan Coatney in left field got chances, and made them, in the first two innings.

Rainer Marfio started the BC third with a walk and Julius James laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Aaron Flanagan, courtesy running for Marfio, took second and was waved into third as CP left third uncovered on the bunt.

Howard hit a sacrifice grounder to second to score Flanagan.

Rhoads got his strikeout pitch going in the CP third, working around a walk and an error to strikeout the side.

After a 1-2-3 inning from Smith, Rhoads sat down the first two CP batters in the bottom of the fourth.

After five straight strikeouts, the BC defense turned in another big play for Rhoads. On a liner down the right field line that two-hopped off the fence, CP had an easy double but tried to stretch it into the triple.

With a perfect relay, Flanagan fired to Howard who took his time and sent an accurate strike to third and Chris Hewitt, who put the tag on for the third out.

After seeing Smith on the mound for 10 innings, and only mustering two runs, BC finally broke through in the top of the fifth.

Coatney led off and reached on an error.

Following the same strategy as the third inning, Kendrick Lee put down a bunt, but CP tried for the out at second and was late, putting two runners on with no outs.

Smith struck out the next two BC hitters but then fell behind in the count to Howard, 3-1.

On the 3-1 pitch, Howard sent a deep fly to his favorite spot over the last couple days, over the right field fence, suddenly making it a 4-0 BC lead.

Howard sent one out on Tuesday to the same spot.

&uot;Both pitches were kind of high and outside,&uot; said Howard.

BC nearly had back-to-back homers as Rhoads followed Howard with a drive out toward the right field fence.

But in a play worthy of any highlight show, CP’s rightfielder raced to the fence, jumped, reached up with his bare hand, his right hand, and robbed the homer barehanded.

It was the third out of the inning and fans of both teams, along with all nine CP players on the field, were going crazy.

CP didn’t make the last six outs easy.

CP cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth and then got a one-out single in the sixth to bring the tying run to the plate.

Rhoads stayed cool though, getting a fly that Justin Thomas took care of in left and then getting strikeout number seven for the championship-winning out.

Howard, who was the regular season MVP for BCLL’s Major Division, was the unanimous choice by his teammates for the tournament MVP.

In the last three BC wins,

&uot;We just got pumped up more when we got down,&uot; said Flanagan about the previous comebacks in the tournament.

&uot;We played together and with heart,&uot; said Josh Henderson, BC’s centerfielder and third-place hitter.

&uot;We’re like a big family,&uot; said Marfio.

&uot;We feel awesome, we’re ready to go to states and we’re ready to win it,&uot; said Flanagan.

BC will be traveling to Tazewell County for the Virginia State Little League Tournament.