Box scores don't tell the story of the Area 2, District 6 Little League baseball tournament, a double-elimination event which was played last week at Eisenhower Park in Augusta.
The Martinez-Evans American League All-star team swept through Area 2 with three wins, including two over the MELL National squad. In the three victories, MELL American scored only eight runs.
Even with homers from Adam King, Kevin Millward and Travis Cerasulo, the Americans didn't have much pop at the plate, but strong pitching, aggressive baserunning and timely defense carried MELL American to the Area 2 title in the 11-12 age division.
In Thursday night's clincher, MELL American faced a stern test from league rival MELL National.
With the Nationals at bat, and with the Americans holding a tenuous 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth, center fielder Teddy Leverett made a diving stop and held National All-star Nick Richards to a long single.
Then, with two outs, Anthony Lehn dropped a bunt down the third base line. A throwing error ensued, and it appeared the American's lead would be trimmed to one.
But left-fielder Daniel Hess made a heads-up play and chased down the errant throw. He quickly fired the ball back to the infield, which helped keep the lead at 3-1.
"Those were definitely the key plays," MELL American manager Lee Walker said of the fifth-inning heroics from his outfielders.
In the last inning, MELL American escaped a bases-loaded jam to top the National all-stars for the first time since Martinez-Evans Little League formed two divisions for 11-12 all-star play.
"This is just the beginning of the road to Williamsport, hopefully," Walker said, referring to the site in Pennsylvania where the Little League World Series is staged each summer.
"The boys know that's the ultimate goal. We try to focus just one step at a time; we feel fortunate to get out of Area 2 without a loss, because this is a tough Area. We've got some good kids out here, so maybe they'll be able to put something together."
While the MELL American All-star are attempting to blaze a trail to Williamsport, Columbia County Recreation Department Dixie Boys all-star squads want to go west - specifically, to Euless, Texas, where the Dixie Boys World Series will be played in August.
In the Dixie Boys (13-14 age division) District 4 tournament last weekend at Patriots Park, the Columbia County National League All-stars took the first step to the Lone Star State by winning a best-of-three series with the CC Americans.
The Nationals won the opener 11-1, but the Americans rallied to take the second game 4-3. The Nationals regrouped for a 13-3 victory in the championship game, and earned a spot in the Dixie Boys state tournament, which begins this weekend in Forsyth.
The MELL American All-star team, meanwhile, still had some work to do earlier this week in order to advance to the Little League state tournament, which begins this weekend in Smyrna. The Americans began a best-of-three series Monday in Athens at the District 6 finals against Athens International.
"This group has got the pitching, and we're very good defensively," Coach Walker said last week of the MELL American All-stars. "We're not quite as strong at the plate right now, but that could change."
District 6, Area 2 Little League Tournament (11-12 age division)
Eisenhower Park, West Augusta Little League Complex
Martinez-Evans Little League All-star results
MELL National 3, Masters City 2. Winning pitcher: Chase Huffman. Leading hitters for MELL: Brandon Paul 2-2; Anthony Lehn 2-2, double.
MELL American 1, West Augusta 0. Winning pitcher: Travis Cerasuolo.
MELL American 4, MELL National 1. Winning pitcher: Kevin Millward. Leading hitters: American - Teddy Leveret 2-2; Tripper Mischel 2-3, double; Millward, home run; Adam King, home run.
MELL National 9, West Augusta 2. Winning pitcher: Anthony Lehn. Leading hitters: Kevin D'Antignac 2-4; C.J. Marshall 2-4; Will Evans grand slam.
Championship game - MELL American 3, MELL National 1. Winning pitcher: Travis Cerasuolo. Leading hitters: Teddy Leverett 2-3; Kevin Millward double, 2 RBI.
Dixie Boys (13-14 age division) District 4 Tournament
Results from Patriots Park
Columbia County National 13, Columbia County American 3. Winning pitcher: Josh Brodhecker. Leading hitters: National - Hank McCladdie 2-3.
CC American 4, CC National 3. Winning pitcher: Nolan Belcher. Leading hitters: American - Mark Boiter 2-4. National - Shawn Ward 2-3, McCladdie 2-3.
Championship game - CC National 11, CC American 1. Winning pitcher: Brodhecker. Leading hitters: National - Rich Poythress 2-2, double, triple; Ward 2-3; McCladdie 3-3.
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