By Tim Chambers
ERWIN—Johnson County needed an ace in the hole but found the deck stacked in Zone 2 Little League All-Star play. Trying to compete against Johnson City American and Johnson City Majors was too much for a team that had less than a week to prepare.
The effort was there but the numbers weren’t.
Johnson County’s Little League for ages 9-12 had only four teams this summer although the league as a whole was pretty competitive. But here is the downside.
It’s nearly impossible to compete against leagues that have three and four times more kids to choose from, such as Johnson City and Bristol. It’s like our Longhorns going up against Science Hill or a Dobyns-Bennett in football. The outcome will always be the same.
This didn’t stop our kids from battling their butts off in the two games that they played.
“It’s definitely a different level in this zone,” said manager Gary Woodard. “Every team hit the ball well and put it in play. We played two good teams, but our kids stayed in there good and battled. I told our kids not to beat themselves up. The teams we played over here play travel ball all season long. We only had a few practices and a couple of games under our belt. I thought our kids did great considering all that. You can tell that the Johnson City teams and Bristol have put a lot of time into it.”
They fell 10-0 to Johnson City American on the first night. This is a team that could reach the state tournament in the next few days.
The Johnson City coaches and fans were very complementary and are to be applauded. Several enjoyed watching Johnson County’s Zack Parsons pitch into the fourth inning.
The 11-year-old burley right-hander struck out five batters during the first three innings. Johnson County trailed 6-0 after three innings and three of those were unearned.
Dalton Brown (hit by a pitch) and Seth Condor (walk) were the only two Johnson County players to reach base.
Two Johnson County pitchers combined to strike out 12 batters in the four-inning affair. They never had to record an out in the field.
Johnson County had a pair of defensive gems in the field.
Parsons made one heck of a play on the mound to record an out and Asa Lewis had a pair of web gems at first including one leaping grab.
John Austin provided the defensive play of the game when he threw out a Johnson City runner at home from deep in left field trying to score on a base hit.
“This is my first time making the All-Stars so it’s very special,” said Austin. “It was awesome even though we lost both games. Seeing what I saw makes me want to work hard and get better.”
Johnson City Majors 13
Johnson County 2
Things got somewhat better the next game despite being eliminated.
Johnson County was able to dent the scoreboard with a couple of runs and turned in several outstanding defensive plays.
Asa Lewis walked to start the second, then moved to second base on a single by Dalton Brown. Big John Stout blasted an RBI single allowing his team to get on the board. John Austin drove in their final run with another run-scoring single.
“I thought it was fun but a lot more challenging than the regular season,” said Stout. “It was fun coming over here and playing against different players and different teams. All these teams are very good.”
Ethan Icenhour ripped a towering double in the third inning but was left stranded after Seth Condor walked. Zack Parsons was robbed of a home run in the first inning after seeing his ball caught up against the fence.
Johnson County played much better defense in this contest.
Anthony Woodard had the best web gem, leaping high at second base to rob a JC batter of a two-run base hit. Asa Lewis had two good defensive plays at first including one double-play. Trey Snyder played well over the two-game stretch at third base and Tanner Putnam was valuable at a couple of positions.
“It’s different than what we play against at home because you are basically playing against middle school players,” said Lewis. “You see faster pitching and harder hitting than we see back home. We could be a lot better if we could get use to the pitching. Over here you have to play on instinct. You don’t have much time to react.”