After narrowly making the cut for the Statewide Athletic Conference 10U playoffs, the Clinton All Stars showed their tenacity and heart over two weekends of “extraordinary play” that earned them the state SWAC championship, the first-ever title for a Clinton baseball team.
They won the title in a 9-8 nail-biter game Sunday afternoon in Holly Springs against the Hasting All Stars. It was, head coach Darrell Smith said, a fifth-inning come-back win that kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
“It was a great game,” Smith attested Friday, still reeling from the thrill of victory.”These boys did a heck of a job, but they’ve been doing that just about every game they’ve played. I cannot begin to tell you how proud of am of them. They, and their parents, have represented Clinton well.”
The Clinton Stars, 11 young boys ages 9 and 10, made their way to the state tournament by first qualifying two weekends ago in the regional playoffs, held in Moore County. The four-day tournament had the youngsters on the field for many hours, working their way to qualify for the state. They did that and, at the same time, took second place in the regionals.
It was during the regionals that Smith said he watched one of the greatest comebacks he’d ever seen.
“It was amazing, but the again, that’s these boys. They have such determination and such heart. They give it 110 percent every time they go out on that field, whether it’s to practice or to play. It’s wonderful to watch.”
In the Moore County game, Clinton’s 10U were facing powerhouse Alamance, a county well known for its SWAC teams, and were down 14 runs in the fourth inning.
“But I could see in their eyes that they weren’t done, they weren’t giving up. You just knew by the look on their faces that they had something left to give,” Smith said.
And give they did, scoring 14 runs in the final 2 innings to come back and win the game.
Most memorable, Smith said, was the final play of that game, when the team’s youngest member, 9-year-old Colin Avery was at bat, facing a 2-2 count.
“I looked at him and told him to take a deep breath and have fun,” Smith recalled, smiling at the memory.
The youngster, his coach said, got the game-winning hit.
“There were many memorable games, including the championship game, but that one stands out because it shows just how determined these boys have been.”
Smith said during the regionals the Clinton Stars played what he believed was some of the best ball he’d ever seen played. “Honestly, I could not imagine how they could play any better than they were in Moore County. They were dominating on defense and scoring well. It was really unbelievable the way they were playing.”
But the team wasn’t done. They brought to Holly Springs that same determination, stepping it up another notch as they faced team after team, ending the tournament not only as champs, but as undefeated champs in the three-day championship.
“They certainly exceeded my expectations, and they were high, believe me,” Smith said of this boys. “These kids are just good. They love the game and they take it very seriously. They put in a lot of time practicing and playing, and they give it all they have every time. Their dedication is unmatched in my book.”
Smith said his future hopes include being able to see a 10U tournament in Clinton, much like those his team traveled to over the past few weeks.
“It would be good for the city, good for the county and most especially good for the kids. After all, that’s what it’s all about — the kids.”