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Game breaker

Flowers’ grand slam powers NCBM to city title

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With one sweet swing of the bat, 11-year-old Jake Flowers turned a nip-and-tuck Wilson City Little League Major League championship baseball game into a rout under threatening skies and in an occasional light rain on the Southern Bank Stadium diamond at J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex on Friday evening.

With North Carolina Baseball Museum clinging to a 6-5 lead in the top of the third inning, Flowers, the son of head coach Doug Flowers, connected for a grand slam. Center fielder Alen Torres walloped a three-run shot in the final inning as NCBM proceeded to its first City championship by an 18-6 margin against Creech’s Plumbing, which saw its string of city titles end at three last season.

NCBM, which deadlocked Creech’s for regular-season supremacy and posted a 13-4 record, celebrated its first championship in just its fourth year. NCBM finished seventh among eight teams in 2014, last in 2015 and third in 2016. Creech’s settled for the runner-up distinction with a 12-5 record. The teams split regular-season games.

“It’s awesome!” Doug Flowers exclaimed in the presence of assistant coach Jeff Taylor. “We took over this team four years ago and have just one four-year player (catcher Drew Wells). It’s been a tough road. They took their lumps but it has paid off.”

The road became smoother when second baseman Jake Flowers’ blast hiked the lead to 10-5. Creech’s drew no closer.

“It felt good,” Jake Flowers shyly said of the slam. “It was really big for our team. We kept on scoring runs; we needed to because they were going to keep battling.”

Did he know the well-hit shot was going to clear the fence in left-center field?

“It was a fastball in the middle,” Jake Flowers reviewed. “I thought a little bit that it might (go out); it felt good off the bat.”

His father’s description of the bases-loaded blast was “huge.”

“We knew we needed to get some separation,” Doug Flowers continued. “We needed something, needed a hit. He came through at a big time.”

Each team scored four runs in the first and one in the second. However, the eight-run NCBM uprising in the third drained Creech’s spirits.

NCBM pitcher Luke Bedford, a right-hander, limited Creech’s to two hits and no runs the last three innings. After the slam, NCBM made defensive plays and continued an assault that produced 16 hits. Creech’s was plagued by eight errors.

Jake Flowers wound up 2 for 3 with five RBIs. Bedford helped his cause with four hits, including two doubles. Left fielder Luke Dilda rapped three hits while first baseman Will Taylor collected a pair. Doug Flowers explained Bedford, Taylor, shortstop Blake Strickland and his son formed the team’s foundation as 9-year-olds in 2015.

Creech was triggered by two hits each from losing pitcher Matt Kirby, second baseman Carter Adams and Josh Taylor, who doubled. Adams scored three runs while Taylor and first baseman Walker Ford each drove in a pair.

Chris Bass, Creech’s head coach, noted starting pitcher Kirby has been hampered by an injury, has pitched infrequently and his curve and change-up were not working.

“They are a good-hitting team and we didn’t have a pitcher to go against them,” Bass said. “But I can’t complain; we made it to the championship.”

Of the grand slam, Bass responded: “I knew it was gone before (the pitch) got to the plate. But it was over before then.”

hammer@wilsontimes.com | 265-7819

Score by innings:

Creech’s Plumbing418104—18

N.C. Baseball Museum411000—6

WP-Luke Bedford 6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, BB 1, SO 5. LP-Matt Kirby.

LEADING HITTERS — Creech’s Plumbing: Matt Kirby 2-3, 2 R; Carter Adams 2-3, 3 R; Josh Taylor 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; N.C. Baseball Museum: Jake Flowers 2-4, HR, 5 RBI; Luke Bedford 4-5, 2 2B, 2 R; Luke Dilda 3-4, 2 RBI; Will Taylor 2-3, Allen Torres 1-4, HR, 3 RBI.

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