A player takes a swing at the Clinton SWAC tournament. (Judi Nicholson/CRPD)
A Clinton pitcher delivers a strike. (Judi Nicholson/CRPD)
The Statewide Athletics Committee 12U baseball and softball eastern regional tournaments both took place in Sampson County over the weekend.
The tournaments included all-star teams from both Clinton and Sampson County as they competed in Roseboro and Clinton.
The softball tournament was taken by Onslow County as they defeated Bladen County in a rematch of the 2011 SWAC final by a score of 9-5 at Sampson County Recreation’s Western District Park.
“The weekend went great,” said county recreation director Raymond Spell. “We dodged the rain. Both of these coaches have produced a good little program. You can’t ask for something better. It’s been really good.”
The Sampson County All Stars kicked off the weekend with a win over Jacksonville before advancing to play top-seeded Scotland. Sampson would again come out on top and advanced to the semi-finals of the double-elimination tournament undefeated.
They would run into trouble, though, as they fell to eventual champion Onslow County and then lost to Bladen in the elimination bracket to end their tournament.
The Clinton All Stars had a difficult time as they took an opening round loss to Bladen. After knocking Scotland County out in the elimination bracket, they again matched up with Bladen and were again handed a loss.
The final was taken by the still-undefeated Onslow All Stars as they jumped on top of Bladen with some early runs and warded off a late comeback attempt.
“They have a great staff over here,” says Onslow County coordinator Bobby Hatchell on his weekend in Roseboro. “We came last year, too, and both times they’ve treated us like we were home.”
The tournament does many things for Sampson, including boost revenue.
“The commerce a tournament like this brings is money and revenue to the hotels and restaurants as well as visitors to the county that have never been here before,”remarked Spell on the impact of bringing a tournament like the SWAC to the area.
“The visiting programs have been really good. They’ve offered us a lot of insight into things that we’re doing that they don’t do that could help each of us grow. I think softball’s going to be big in this county for a while.”
Because of the rain, the 12U eastern regional baseball final did not end before press time Tuesday. It began late last week.
Both the Clinton and Sampson all-star teams opened the tournament with double-digit blowouts by defeating Smithfield North and South, respectively.
Both teams, however, would receive losses in the second round as Clinton fell to Angier and Sampson fell to Onslow. This would set up a Sampson—Clinton showdown after both teams once again disposed of their Smithfield opponents.
While the Sampson All Stars jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, Clinton would battle back to make it a one-run game after a four-run fifth inning.
Three sixth inning runs by Sampson would give them a four-run cushion and their pitching closed out a 10-6 win to knock Clinton from the tournament.
Sampson County would again prove their resilience by avenging an earlier loss in blowout fashion by beating Onslow 13-0 to advance to the final where they matched up with the then-undefeated Angier.
Another Sampson County win on Monday afternoon forced a deciding title matchup between the two teams.
“Any chance to bring folks from out of town into Clinton and show them some hospitality is a good opportunity,” said Clinton recreation director Judi Nicholson.