By Steve Williams
A few of the Karns players could be seen being consoled by a parent after their season ended one win short of the State Little League tournament finals Wednesday night at Karns. Such scenes are quick reminders that these are just 11-year-old boys.
Six years or so ago, they were just beginning to play youth baseball. In another six years from now, they could be seniors on their high school team.
They’re growing up, but still young enough to enjoy the comfort of a mom’s hug after a disappointing defeat.
In a team meeting with parents after a stinging 13-3 loss to Goodlettsville, Karns manager Jimmy Hartline chose to highlight the positive. He talked about how his boys finished third in the state this year after going 0-2 last year at the state as 10-year-olds.
“When tournament play began, there were 78 All-Star teams across the state,” said Hartline. “We finished third in the state.”
Karns hosted a team banquet Friday night (July 15) and tournament play started the following day with eight district champion teams in the field.
Displaying a strong hitting attack and excellent speed on the base paths, Karns, the District 6 champ, stormed from behind to win its first game, defeating Montgomery Central of Clarksville 16-9.
Other first-round games saw Tullahoma beat Greeneville 19-0, Goodlettsville edge Gallatin 12-11 and Madison Central of Jackson get past Johnson City 8-6 in seven innings.
Second-day action saw Gallatin oust Greeneville 7-1, Montgomery Central eliminate Johnson City 17-12, Tullahoma shut out Goodlettsville 13-0 and Karns topple Madison Central 13-8.
Two more teams were eliminated last Monday as Madison Central rolled past Montgomery Central 14-2 and Goodlettsville stopped Gallatin 8-1.
Tuesday’s play featured the winners bracket finals, with powerful Tullahoma downing Karns and submarine southpaw Riley Hartline 11-1. Goodlettsville outscored Madison Central 18-2 in the nightcap to stay alive.
With only three teams left standing, Goodlettsville ousted Karns to move into Thursday’s finals against Tullahoma.
Leading 4-1 after three innings, Goodlettsville erupted for nine runs in the top of the fourth. After Karns starting pitcher Riley Keegan was pulled, Jeffrey “Boog” Powell greeted reliever Jacob Camfield with a grand slam and Trent Sheely followed with a solo homer to straightaway centerfield.
Karns, getting a single from Tyler Millsaps and a double from Nick Wilson, rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fourth but couldn’t prevent the game from ending on the 10-run mercy rule.
Jalen Summers, using an effective slow curve, pitched a three-hitter and struck out nine Karns batters.
A single by Jacob Franklin in the second inning was Karns’ only other hit in the game.
Tullahoma defeated Goodlettsville 11-5 in Thursday night’s finals to qualify for a berth in the Tournament of State Champions in North Carolina.
Karns’ 12-year-old All-Stars were scheduled to play Tullahoma this past Saturday afternoon in state tournament opening round action in Gallatin.