Jr. Warriors claim conference championship over Jr.’ Dogs

Published 6:29 pm Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Jr. Warriors were like a ticking time bomb Friday.

Facing Hampton Elementary in the Little Watauga Conference tournament championship, Happy Valley Middle School, trailing 3-2, exploded for eight runs in the sixth to claim the championship, 10-3, at Indian Trail.

The big inning was highlighted by a bases-clearing, three-RBI triple from HV’s Andrew Little. Jr. Warriors’ Ben Ellis had an RBI single during the rally while Happy Valley’s Drew Turner, Hunter Smith, Dillion Woodby, Ellis, Pedro Colunga, Little, Zac Workman all had runs in the frame.

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“We went into the sixth inning down, and our kids were just patient,” said HVMS head coach Eric Stephens. “Hats off to Caleb Royston, the pitcher from Hampton, he threw a great game. We just bided our time. We just had a good approach. Took bases when we need to and had great base hitting.

“Andrew Little’s triple was huge,” Stephen added. “Very smart on the base paths and that helped contribute to busting the inning open.”

Happy Valley took an early 2-0 lead after Workman hit an RBI single in the opening frame before Colunga scored in the third inning.

The Jr. ‘Dogs tied things up at 2-2 in the fourth. Hampton’s McKinnley Kuhn scored teammate Caleb Royston with a single before Jr. Bulldogs’ Kyler Lewis made it home on a wild pitch.

Hampton would score the go-ahead run in the fifth as Jr. Bulldogs’ Avery Hill netted a run with an RBI single to put his team up, 3-2, before the Jr. Warriors came roaring back in the sixth.

The Jr. Warriors finished the day with nine hits as Turner and Stephens both went 2-0f-3. Stephens and Little both had triples on the day while Workman and Smith each collected a double each.

Stephens opened the game on the mound for HVMS before Smith came in during the fifth to close out the contest.

“Hampton’s dugout was loud throughout the game, and both of our pitchers were able to hold their composure on the mound,” said Stephens. “They threw the ball really well.”

The Jr. Warrior were the regular-season champions with a 10-0 league record and are 17-1 after Friday’s game.

Both Hampton and the Jr. Warriors will begin play in the area tournament on Monday at Ridgeview Elementary.