The state championship T-shirts were ordered a week ago.
The Greeneville Senior League All-Stars felt that good about their chances at this past weekend’s state tournament at Eagleton Little League Park.
Greeneville Little League had invested eight years and a lot of planning to make sure it happened.
An error-plagued Maryville first inning, followed by an equally damaging second, staked Greeneville to a quick, seven-run advantage. Four innings later, Greeneville ended it early, run-ruling the home team, 13-0, in six innings in the championship game Tuesday night.
Maryville committed six errors through the first three Greeneville batters before lightning halted play for 30 minutes.
Greeneville wouldn’t commit an error for the game.
Of 38 Greeneville players to bat in the game, only three would be retired by strikeout, all while touching two Maryville pitchers for 14 hits.
Thirteen of those hits were singles!
Greeneville even had the tournament’s top name in utility man Drew Lady.
The polish Greeneville displayed was no accident, Maryville coach Bobby Shaffer said. It was years in the making.
Where Maryville Little League — including its 15-16-year-old Senior League — shares Blount County with leagues at Eagleton and Alcoa, Greeneville Little League has no competitor in Greene County. Greeneville Little League even has a novel agreement with area travel teams, with most league games taking place during the week, freeing players to travel on weekends.
The Greeneville Marlins program is due a lot of the credit for the move, Greeneville coach Gene Lamb said. Put in place when most of the players on this year’s Senior League team were only 8, it’s had a telling effect. Quality of play within the league soared.
“This is the team that’s reaping the benefits from it,” Lamb said.
To select its All-Stars, the league holds a three-day, league-wide tryout. Thirty players competed for this year’s 16 roster spots in late June.
The team that takes to the road in early July is a well-oiled, Greene Machine indeed, with a wealth of interchangeable parts.
“These young men have played together since they were 8 years old,” Lamb said, “and there isn’t a bad ball player in the bunch. They know what they’re doing.”
It’s hard to argue with the results, Shaffer said.
“I favor that system,” he said, “and I’m vice president of our league. I’ve spoken out for that (system) for years.”
Maryville eliminated rival Eagleton in the district finals. While there’s little chance of it happening, what if, like Greeneville, the two leagues were one?
“If we could combine Eagleton and Maryville, think of the team we could field,” Shaffer said.
Maryville faced an uphill battle entering Tuesday’s championship game. Greeneville had relegated Maryville to the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament with an 11-3 decision on Sunday. Knowing it needed a doubleheader sweep Tuesday, Maryville may have taken the field looking too far ahead, Shaffer said.
When lighting halted play early and a thunderstorm threatened, Shaffer said he found himself hoping for a downpour. Maryville’s fortunes only worsened when play resumed.
“If we had played early and kept the errors down, it would have been 2-0 in the fourth inning,” Shaffer said.
Maryville had several players distinguish themselves over the tournament’s four days. Six players with at least five plate appearances would finish with batting averages above .300, led by Caleb Horn’s .364. Evan Molter and Corey Cardwell (.333), Ryan Hill and Steven Brooks (.308) and Ryan VanWinkle (.300) also had big weekends, with Lee Bristol (.273) not far back.
Nick Stuckwish singled in one of his two plate appearances to finish at .500.
Hill, with a team-leading five RBI, went deep twice for Maryville, with Brooks homering once. Molter collected Maryville’s lone triple for the tournament.
Brooks, Cardwell and Molter led Maryville with six strikeouts each on the mound.
Maryville simply ran into a “darn good” baseball team, Shaffer said, one part of a winning formula that shows no signs of letting up.
The Greeneville Big League All-Stars won their state tournament a week ago. Tuesday night in Bristol, its Junior League won that title as well.
Greeneville Senior League
2008 Senior League
Colin King, Dustin Holland, Drew Lady, Kip Grooms, Justin Tarlton, Dalton Lamb, Tyler Feezell, Brandon Laster, Storm Bailey, Keith Rodgers, Brock Church, Roger Vrandenburg, Nick Presley, Mike Masters, Zach McCamey, Brent Bowan. Coach: Gene Lamb.
Maryville Senior League
2008 Senior League
Brent Harveston, Bradley Huff, Nick Stuckwish, Corey Cardwell, Steven Brooks, Ryan VanWinkle, Lee Bristol,. Front Row, left to right, Evan Molter, Micah Talley, Caleb Horn, Will Shaffer and Ryan Hill. Coaches: Bobby Shaffer, Mark Molter.