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Florida wins Tournament of Champions

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 12:48 AM

CEREDO-KENOVA -- It wasn't a Southeastern Conference football game at Mitch Stadium, but like their college football counterparts in recent years Florida simply had too much Wednesday night for Tennessee.

Keystone (Fla.) used a three-run bomb in the first inning by Bobby Howard and a five-run second inning to push to an insurmountable lead in a 12-6 win over Goodlettsville (Tenn.) in the championship game of the Little League Baseball (age 9-10) Tournament of State Champions in front of 847 fans.

For the state of Florida, that is 16 consecutive wins and three consecutive titles at the Tournament of State Champions, which brings together the best 9-10 year-old Little League teams from the eight states comprising the Southeastern Regional.

Keystone showed its complete game, pounding out 13 hits while also displaying several solid defensive plays that kept Goodlettsville from putting runs on the board.

Josh Johnston came on in relief and pitched 4 2/3 innings, capping off the win with back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded.

"We've always had good pitching and defense and our hitting has carried us from time to time but it started to slow down a bit," Keystone coach Jay Jackson said. "We've had timely hitting with good pitching and defense this tournament, though."

Following Howard's second home run of the tournament, a five-run second inning pushed Florida's lead to 8-1 with all runs scoring after Goodlettsville's Bryce Miller had recorded two outs. The big blow was a two-run single by Ty Bitman, who later scored on a wild pitch and throwing error.

The hit by Bitman, who later scored on a wild pitch and throwing error, came after Miller had intentionally walked Howard.

Howard helped his own cause prior to ever taking the mound for Keystone. Howard blasted a three-run home run over the left-field wall to start the scoring.

It was nothing new for Howard, who said he did the same thing in the Florida state tournament.

"I was just trying to hit the ball hard," Howard said. "My dad said if you do that, good things will happen."

Jackson said the home run settled the team in well for the tough test from Goodlettsville.

"Everyone was at ease after that," Jackson said. "You always have the nerves in the beginning, but when he hit that, you just felt like it was our day."

Howard then got plenty of defensive help in the bottom of the inning when second baseman Chase Jackson snagged a liner with the bases loaded for the first out. Shortstop Bobby Christy ended the inning when he dug out a one-hopper to shortstop, stepped on second then fired to first to punch out Jerrett Webb for an inning-ending double play.

"We play year-round, so I see them make those plays all the time," Jackson said. "They work so hard to make those plays, but it's easy to forget they are a special team and a special group of young players."

Goodlettsville got on the board in the first inning on a wild pitch and tacked on a pair more when Luke Fleming cracked an RBI double to straight-away center field. Kaleb Powell followed with an RBI groundout to make it 8-3 at that point.

The lead grew to as big as 12-3 after a four-run fourth in which Howard, Joey Johnston and Brett Schoessler each had RBIs.

Howard finished the game with four RBIs while Bitman was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Johnston was also 3-for-4 while Dominic Lafalce finished with two hits.

For Goodlettsville, Webb was 2-for-3 with a double while Luke Fleming added an RBI double. Kaleb Powell and Ryan Oden also had RBIs.

KEYSTONE 350 400 -- 12 13 3

GOODLETTSVILLE 120 201 -- 6 7 5

Howard, Johnston (2) and Caswell, Howard (2). Miller, Powell (3), Lewis (5) and Powell, Oden (3), Powell (5).

Hitting: (K) Howard HR, 4 RBIs; Bitman 3-4, 2 RBIs; Johnston 3-4; Lafalce 2-4. (G) Fleming 2B, RBI; Lewis 2-4, Reeves RBI; Webb 2-4, 2B.