SWEETWATER — A grand day for Lebanon Youth Baseball got even better when the Nationals outscored Savannah 8-6 to reach the Dixie Youth O-Zone state tournament final Wednesday.
But the day proved to be sweetest of all for the Lebanon Americans, who ousted their league-mates 13-0 in four innings to take the title as Tennessee state champions.
“I didn’t care whether it was Americans or Nationals,” American manager Scott Sorce said while traveling back to Lebanon. “It’s one Lebanon representing the state of Tennessee, and I am very proud of that.
“One Lebanon is going to represent the state of Tennessee in the World Series.”
“It was pretty special when you looked out there today and saw both teams wearing Lebanon colors,” said Nationals manager Kevin Gaines.
It is the second Dixie Youth state title for Lebanon, whose Rotary, coached by Gaines, won it all in 2008 and went on to finish in a tie for fifth place in the World Series.
It’s also the second state baseball championship in five days for Lebanon, whose 15-year-old all-stars won the Babe Ruth title Sunday.
The Americans will travel to Lexington, S.C., for the Dixie Youth World Series and open with the Louisiana champions at 8 p.m. Aug. 9. Win or lose, the Americans will face either Georgia or Florida on Aug. 10 as 11 state champs and host Lexington compete in the double-elimination event.
The Nationals jumped to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning on RBI singles by Jeremiah Hastings and Evan Britt sandwiched around a three-run triple by Kameron Bond.
A two-run homer by Braden Reece and a solo shot by Luke Bradshaw were the heart of a six-run second inning. Bond homered in the fourth as he finished with five RBI on three hits, including a double.
Bradshaw and Hastings had two hits each.
Reasonover pitched one inning and Reece three as the pair allowed four hits to the Nationals – singles by Bryce Miller, Ryan Jackson, Cade Tuschl and J.D. Usrey.
Kolby Gaines pitched the first 1 2/3 innings to take the loss before Usrey finished.
“They got a great team and they came out early...[and] hit the ball from the get-go and jumped on us. That’s baseball. We could have done that to them tomorrow if we played.
“If we played 10 times, each team would probably win five. They have a great team and we were probably fortunate to beat them two times in the district tournament.
The Nationals came off their win over Savannah hours earlier.
Lebanon jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning before Savannah matched the total and added one run of interest to take a 5-4 edge in the bottom half.
The Nats tied the score in the second and went up 7-5 in the fourth. Savannah got a run back in the bottom of the fourth before Lebanon got its final tally in the sixth.
Jackson drove in three runs on a pair of singles.
Chase Birdwell pitched the first three innings and got the win when the Nationals scored their two in the fourth. Gaines threw the final three frames for the save, helped by Tyson Kelley reaching over the fence to take away a three-run homer in the sixth and Birdwell making a diving catch at shortstop.
“Kevin Gaines and John Bryan and those coaches are class acts,” Sorce said of the National coaches, whose team beat the Americans twice to win the district championship earlier this month. “Their team came together and bought in 100 percent. It was a huge challenge to beat them at all. You have to hand it to them because they had to play a game earlier and that’s tough on any kid to play an emotional game and have to turn around and play again.”
“We’re district champs and they’re state champs,” Gaines said he told his players. “We beat the state champs twice, and there are not many teams that can say that.”