Evans and starter Brandon Hodge combined to allow six hits and strike out 11.
“We got dropped in the losers’ bracket and fought our way back,” Tigers skipper Alan Harris said after the game Thursday. “We won [Wednesday] night to force it to a final game tonight. We’ve just had hard-working kids all year long. They really worked hard and they’re deserving of this tonight.”
He noted the Tigers had won 16 in a row before falling in their regular season finale, their 16-1 regular-season record still good enough for a regular season championship.
But it was the five in a row they had to win to claim a playoff championship that tested the mettle of the Cartersville Little League Tigers, their coach said.
“It’s real hard to win in the tournament,” Harris said. “I think our hard work for the entire season paid off. We ... had to work really hard to get this.”
Evans was a major contributor to his team’s offensive success as well, as he singled his way on base in the bottom of the first by hitting a one-hopper that leap-frogged past second base before the Phillies’ second-baseman made a spearing catch from behind and just missed recording an out with his throw to first.
Evans was erased the next play on a fielder’s choice but Jake Cooper advanced to second on a single by Grant Harris, then scored on an RBI-single by Gage Morris to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
That lead didn’t last, however, as Derrick Pearson doubled his way on in the second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored after the Tigers picked off a first-base runner but then overthrew home plate.
The Tigers responded with two runs in the third after Cooper got on base after being hit by a pitch, then scored when Harris recorded an RBI-single. Harris tagged home plate later in the frame on a wild pitch, giving the home team a 3-1 lead after three full innings of play.
An inning later, Evans — who got on with a fielders choice — and Cooper — who got on courtesy of a hit by pitch — added two more runs, both aided by wild pitches, and the Tigers were in control, 5-1.
The Phillies closed out scoring when Jordan Wells touched home plate after beating a close throw, to close to 5-2.
Harris said Evans turned in a superb performance after entering the contest in the second inning.
“John Reed [Evans] pitched the rest of the game,” he said. “We had our closer waiting, but we didn’t have to use him because John Reed did such a good job.”
Evans faced the minimum number of batters twice, including striking out the game’s final three batters in the sixth.
“I think he was getting better,” Harris said. “He’s got a real good off-speed pitch and we used that a lot tonight, and I think he got better as the game went along.”
The coach said experience also played a role in the offensive fireworks.
“Our 12-year-olds really stepped up to the plate for us tonight,” the coach said. “We had Grant Harris and Jake Cooper who stood out for us offensively. Our defense was sound tonight, as well.”
He said the youngsters have a good approach to the game. “I think our players are good in pressure situations and they remained calm. That’s what got us through this close game tonight.”
Harris said although the Tigers got the win, they got a hard test.
“I’d like to congratulate the Phillies. They beat us earlier in the tournament and put us in the losers’ bracket and played us two tough games this week,” he said. “They were the two toughest games we’ve had all year long.”
He said his team got some good guidance from the coaching staff. “I’d like to thank my two assistant coaches, Tom Gooch, who’s been with the Little League for many years, and Tony Evans. I’d like to congratulate them for helping win this championship.”