Team downs Harman Ice 9-2 in finale
By Jeff Keeling
The Braves from Johnson City’s Major League capped off a 23-2 season Wednesday night with a 9-2 win over the National League’s Harman Ice in the Johnson City Little League tournament championship.
Coach Chip Backus’ squad plated runs in each of the first three innings in taking a 5-1 lead and cruised from there. The team started 10-year-old Spencer Powell after ace Colby Backus had reached his pitch limit in Tuesday’s 6-1 semifinal win over General Shale.
Powell departed after four innings, and Dustin Stanton came on to pitch the fifth before Caleb Zepeda closed out Harman Ice in the sixth by striking out all three batters he faced.
“We were planning on using him (Colby) for the last game, but we knew they were throwing their ace last night,” Backus said. “We knew we had a good chance tonight, because whatever team was coming to the championship from their bracket was going to be out of pitchers.”
The game was played at a neutral site, the American League field at Lions Park. Backus, who is assisted by Fernando Zepeda and Stephen Pugh, said the Braves (sponsored by Fanatics 101) used a balanced approach to accomplish their stellar season.
“We have a really good combination,” Backus said. “We have a lot of good hitters on the team. Pretty much everyone hit the ball.
“When you have that happening and then you have good defense behind it, we had some decent pitchers, then it just happens.”
The win was especially sweet for Colby Backus and the team’s other fourth-year players, as they had lost in the city championship in 2011. Colby Backus and fellow 12-year-olds Alex Pugh and Caleb Zepeda formed the backbone of this year’s team, and have helped lead the Braves to three JC Major League regular season titles in their four years.
“It feels good to get a city tournament in,” Backus said. “We came in today and he said, ‘Dad, we were second last time – we’re going to do it differently this year.’”
While Spencer Powell wasn’t on the team in 2011, he summed up his teammates’ feelings about taking it all in a post-game interview. “That was awesome.”
The Braves included Colby and Cade Backus, Spencer Powell, Alex Pugh, Tristan Irwin, Caleb Zepeda, Justus Sutton, Dustin Stanton, Isaac Becker and Kaden Honeycutt.