By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
While the All-Stars of Major League Baseball were getting their game started in New York City on Tuesday, two all-star teams were wrapping up their game in a beautiful corner of Mercer County to determine the state championship of the West Virginia Little League Junior League.
The Mountaineers from Charleston drove up the Turnpike with the title in the 13-and-14-year-olds division, beating the Princeton area all-stars 3-2 at the Greater Princeton Little League complex in Gardner.
A crowd of about 120 people was on hand to watch, in temperatures in the low 80s.
Ben Arthur drove in all three Mountaineer runs with a fourth-inning, two-RBI single and a sixth-inning double. He also pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the victors.
“We knew we had a good group of kids. It takes them all to do it,” said Mountaineers coach Scott Pritt.
Princeton coach Tucker Meadows said, “They’re a very good fundamental team. They know the game of baseball. They’re not going to beat themselves. We lost to a very good team today.”
“I still think, even with the tough loss we had today, that it will be a memory that they don’t forget, and it’ll be a life-learning experience for them in the overall run.”
Caleb Pennington, Princeton’s big first baseman, said, “We played with all we had. It stinks to lose, but it happens.”
Levi Nash pitched 6 2/3 innings for Princeton, striking out seven batters and allowing five hits.
Nash said, “I was real thrilled when (Meadows) said I was going to pitch. I just said, ‘Tucker, I’ll do the best I can, and try to get this win for us.’ ”
Princeton had its offense going in the third when Seth Meadows singled and Jacob Harmon hit a ball over third base that was ruled foul when it landed. Despite Tucker Meadows’ protest, the call stood.
The call was a “momentum killer,” Tucker Meadows said. “The ball that hit the chalk was a fair ball. ... It was a judgment call.”
The Mountaineers went ahead 2-0 in the fourth, getting scores from Evan Gibson and Josh Petit, but Princeton left fielder Nick Woods initiated a double play to halt the uprising.
Tucker Meadows said, “I told them, ‘Boys, you don’t never give up. ... You’ve always got a chance, as long as you’re on that field.’ ”
In the fifth, Princeton’s Logan Austin led off with a walk. Seth Meadows launched a long hit to left-center and the throw back into the infield was wild and rolled through the fence.
After lengthy consultation, the umpiring crew ruled that the runners were to advance two bases each, which resulted in a 2-2 tie.
Tucker Meadows said, “That was a play that I thought would put us back in it, and get our kids back up. I knew it was two bases, because I’ve spent a lot of time in the rule book.”
“They finally got it ruled the correct way.”
Then, in the sixth, Gibson drew a leadoff walk for the Mountaineers, and stole second. With two outs, Arthur brought him home with the final run, hitting a drive that carried to the center-field fence.
“To be honest, I thought it was gone,” Arthur said. “Evan did his job and scored, and gave us that lead. It was a great job.”
“I’ve always been told to keep my cool, through everything. I can’t do it without my teammates. ... It’s just as much them as it is me.”
Pritt said, “We battled back. They knew they had it in them to battle back, one inning at a time.”
Princeton had its chances in the bottom of the sixth, with three bases on balls — issued by three Mountaineer pitchers — loading the bases with one out. But the next two batters were out to end the inning.
Arthur said. “I knew that we had probably the best defensive team in the state, and I knew they had my back, all the way through.”
Gibson went 5 1/3 innings for the Mountaineers with seven strikeouts. He allowed four hits and walked four.
Nash said, “That was a real good team. That pitcher (Gibson) did phenomenal — a great job.”
Pritt said, “I knew coming in, that when we made the decision that we wanted to take this team, that we could make it there (to next week’s regional round). And looking ahead, you’re in it now, so anything can happen.”
Tucker Meadows said, “We made a couple of E’s (errors) in the field. ... The ball’s been taking some weird bounces, not only in our games but the other games. But, you know, you’ve got to play with it.”
After the game, Meadows said, “I told them, you know, a lot of kids never get to play in a state championship game, and you got to play in one, and we were just a hit or two away from going on to the regionals in Greenville, S.C.
“I always tell my teams that if you give it everything that you’ve got, and at the end of the day, if you get beat, and if you can answer yourself that you’ve given it everything that you’ve got, you have nothing to be ashamed of. And that’ll get you a long ways in life.”
The playoff team drawn from the Greater Princeton Little League rosters did not play together until the state tournament began last weekend. No other team in their district of the state put together an all-star team to oppose them, so there was no district tournament.
On one hand, that made the Princeton-area boys the de facto district champs. On the negative side, it meant they did not have the experience of being in action together until state tournament pool play took place.
Once they got on the diamond, they swept through the brackets undefeated, beating Moorefield 8-7 on Saturday afternoon and routing Madison 13-0 on Sunday night to complete pool play.
Princeton turned back Hampshire County 8-1 in the semifinals on Monday evening to earn their spot in the final.
Stanley Six, president of the GPLL, said on Tuesday night, “Everything went lovely tonight, but we didn’t come home the winner. We had our chances. ... That is the story of the game. Every kid played his heart out.”
“You noticed the large crowd we had. Other than losing, we enjoyed the game. ... They were loyal Greater Princeton Little League fans.”
He said about the coaches of the Princeton all-stars, “They worked hard on the field. They practiced every day. Every kid on that team loves ’em. If they’d go to the moon, these kids would follow ’em.”
— Contact Tom Bone at