By Jeff Keeling
They came out of the fall 10-6, but by the time the Tennessee Scrappers 9-year-old team got the last out in the USSSA World Series in Kingsport Sunday, they were 45-9 and ranked second in the country.
The team from Gray went 5-0 in the tournament, beating the Johnson City Thunder 12-4 in an anticlimactic final Sunday after a see-saw 9-7 semifinal win over a powerhouse, the West Virginia Gamers.
Shortstop and leadoff batter Tim McGonigle, who hit close to .700 for the year, was named offensive MVP of the tournament. “He’s our leader in every offensive category, and he’s only had five strikeouts all year,” coach Tim Crowder said.
Second baseman and pitcher Josh Owens, who got the win in a 10-2 quarterfinal victory over the Washington County (Va.) Express, was defensive MVP. “He was just running all over the place catching balls,” Crowder said of Owens.
Crowder said the boys were a pretty average team when they started playing together in the spring of 2015. Unlike Little League, USSSA plays by major league rules, so players can lead off, steal bases without restrictions and more.
Crowder said he and fellow coaches Robert Tinker, Keith Trent, Sam Henry, Gary Lhotsky and Jesse Bowman worked hard with the group on both fundamentals and the finer points of strategy.
“We’ve just hit the points they needed improvement on each week, and they’ve responded well and continually improved,” Crowder said.
That showed in the wins over the Gamers and the Thunder, as both teams had defeated the Scrappers handily in their most recent contests. In the semifinal, Kaden Lhotsky relieved an injured Jacob Trent to start the second inning and pitched the final five innings. Peyton Maines got the win in the championship game.
The Scrappers, who generally play teams from the Carolinas, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, will reassemble next month to start a new season in the 10-year-old division.