T.M. Jennings 9s and 10s get blowout, 11s and 12s come from behind

Published 12:45 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — T.M. Jennings’ Travis Conner slides into second base as Quitman’s Azerious Ellis attempts to tag him out during the 9- and 10-year-old Little League All-Star district tournament game Friday night.

NATCHEZ — James Singleton started and ended the opening game of the district tournament with a bang Friday night for T.M. Jennings.

Singleton started on the mound for the 9- and 10-year-old team and struck out four of the first five batters he faced. Then in the bottom of the fourth inning he ripped a single to centerfield that scored two runs to give T.M. Jennings an 11-1 victory over the visitors from Quitman.

“I wanted to hit the ball and win the game for my team,” Singleton said about his game-winning single.

Email newsletter signup

The win put T.M. Jennings in the driver’s seat in the tournament. The winner of today’s elimination game between Quitman and Hattiesburg will have to defeat Natchez twice for the title.

T.M. Jennings’ coach Thomas Dunbar said the win was big for his team.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “The kids came out and played the game like we wanted to.”

Dunbar said one key to the Natchez victory was being aggressive on the base paths.

“It was a good strategy we had planned,” he said. “We wanted to get to first base and keep sending runners home.”

Natchez scored several runs on wild pitches and pass balls in the game, and Dunbar said he wanted to keep the pressure on the pitcher and catcher.

Rain delayed the start of the tournament, which was supposed to begin Thursday, and the T.M. Jennings squad was unable to practice much of the week. Dunbar said that was obvious early in the game.

“We started off kind of rusty, but we made it through,” he said.

T.M. Jennings finished the game with three hits and eight walks on offense.

Rico Carr singled to lead off the game for T.M. Jennings, and Travis Conner also singled in the game.

Jaheim Ivory scored three runs in the game for T.M. Jennings. Singleton got the win on the mound.

T.M. Jennings will face the winner of Quitman and Hattiesburg at 6 p.m. today.

Natchez 11s and 12s 9, Hattiesburg 8

The T.M. Jennings 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars had their backs against the wall facing a trip to the loser’s bracket Friday night against Hattiesburg.

T.M. Jennings trailed 8-7 with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning when Shavoke Herrington stepped to the plate with one runner on base.

After swinging at strike one, Herrington blasted a line drive over the centerfield fence to play hero and give T.M. Jennings a 9-8 victory.

“It felt awesome to hit a walk off and win the game,” Herrington said.

Herrington said the coaches challenged the team after Hattiesburg took the lead in the top of the sixth.

“We came back and our coaches told us all we needed to get our attitudes straight,” Herrington said.

The pep talk worked, and head coach Ernest Woods Sr. said he was proud of the way his team came back to win.

“I think we did good,” Woods said. “Hattiesburg has got a good team. They had me sweating.”

Woods said his team had several leads in the game and allowed Hattiesburg to come back each time.

“We got up early 4-2 and got relaxed,” he said. “Each time we got back up, we relaxed. What we get out of this is we have to keep batting and keep scoring.”

Herrington was not the only T.M. Jennings player to show some power Friday night. Chris Scott and Tyler Harris also added two-run home runs in the game. Jakari Caston finished the game with two doubles for T.M. Jennings, and Ernest Woods Jr. finished 2-for-3.

As Herrington’s home run sailed over the centerfield fence, the T.M. Jennings fans exploded with joy. Don Gordon Sr. said watching a game as entertaining as Friday night’s contest was something special for him.

“We have to make it a point to get out here and support our team,” Gordon said. “T.M. Jennings is back.”

The 11- and 12-year-old team now sits with the same scenario as the younger T.M. Jennings squad. They will face the winner of Saturday morning’s game between Quitman and Hattiesburg for the championship tonight.

If T.M. Jennings is defeated today, a final game will be played Sunday.