Spring Hill Little League Seniors defeat South Carolina, advance to Southeastern semis


Spring Hill Little League Seniors defeat South Carolina, advance to Southeastern semis

The Spring Hill Little League seniors will face Georgia at 2 p.m. CST Tuesday in a semifinal game at the Southeastern regional tournament in Parrish, Fla.

The Spring Hill Little League seniors will face Georgia at 2 p.m. CST Tuesday in a semifinal game at the Southeastern regional tournament in Parrish, Fla.

Representing Tennessee as state champs, Spring Hill defeated South Carolina 11-6 on Sunday, improving their tournament standing to 1-1. They lost their first game Saturday to Virginia, 3-2. The start time for Tuesday’s game is contingent on the weather, which is predicted to be possibly stormy.

Spring Hill’s Brycen Thomas will start for Tennessee against Georgia.

“We’ll take him as far as we can go,†said Coach Dave Dunston on Monday. “We have a legitimate shot to win this. [Brycen’s] our number one catcher, too, so it would be great to have him back in that role [in the event that we go to the championship game.] It could all fall into place. We have to play the game [against Georgia] first though.â€

And Dunston has been impressed by what he’s seen from Georgia in the tournament so far.

“Georgia’s gonna come in and play hard,†Dunston said. “They’re a really good team. All of the final four are good. You can’t get this far without being good.â€

The other two teams in the semifinals are Florida and Virginia.

Tennessee had been grouped with only two other teams in Pool B for pool play because Alabama did not send a representative to the tournament. South Carolina was eliminated Monday when they fell to Virginia in the final game of pool play, leaving them at 0-2. At 2-0, Virginia enters the semifinals as the top seed from the B Pool, and will face Florida in the other semifinal game at 5 p.m. CST.

The two winners of Tuesday’s games will face off Wednesday for a chance to go to the Little League Seniors World Series in Bangor, Maine this weekend.

Having lost their first game to Virginia, Tennessee needed Sunday’s win against South Carolina to stay alive in the tournament’s B Pool. Despite Saturday’s loss, Dunston felt good about Tennessee’s prospects going into their second game, and was happy with his team’s win Sunday.

The Spring Hill Seniors in Florida.

“In my five times coaching little league teams,†said Dunston, “this is the first time we’ve experienced a regional victory. It feels great. Even after losing our first game [to Virginia], I knew we still had a chance to do well. When you hold a team that good to just three runs, and stay close like we did, you can expect to remain competitive.â€

Michael Mackezyk started for Tennessee in both of their pool play games before being relieved by Josh Wilkinson each time. His pitch counts were carefully managed to assure that he would be available for a potential championship matchup on Wednesday.

In the victory against South Carolina, Tennessee fell behind early 1-0, but Thomas hit a second-inning homer to put them up 3-1, and they never trailed again. Mackezyk threw 60 pitches before being relieved by Josh Wilkinson. Wilkinson held them to two runs over the next 2 1/3. Austin Dunston closed out the win, and also contributed 3 RBI’s.

“South Carolina is a rough team,†Dunston said. “They were playing rough, and getting a little mouthy with us. But no matter who they put in to pitch, we kept having success against them. Our guys had to keep their composure and stay focused on playing baseball. Everyone on our team made a contribution to the win.â€

In their opener Saturday, Tennessee got an early 1-0 lead but took a tough loss to Virginia in the end.

“We fell behind them 3-1 after three innings, and could never quite get back at them,†said Dunston. “We had a good chance when we cut it to 3-2 and loaded the bases in the top of the sixth. We even had the tying run on second. And again, we got the tying run on third in the 7th, but couldn’t get him over.â€

If Tennessee wins Tuesday, they will advance to face the winner of the evening matchup in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. CST Wednesday. The A Pool had been made up of Florida, Georgia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

“Our pitching management has all been designed to burn just one pitcher a game, if we can help it,†Dunston said. “We feel good having Brycen ready to start for us Tuesday.â€

Should Tennessee win the tournament, they will then head to Bangor, Maine, for the World Series, which opens Sunday.

You can follow Spring Hill at the Southeastern tournament by visiting here, where you can see live updates of games in progress, box scores and highlights.

Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at greg@springhillhomepage.com or follow him on Twitter @JinkersonGreg.

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