By Connie Leinbach
The Carolina Pirates of Wake Forest were the winners of Ocracoke’s first invitational youth baseball tournament over Memorial Day Weekend.
The tournament was a qualifier for the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) for 12U division teams.
Six teams, including Ocracoke’s team, the Rays, played Saturday and Sunday at Ocracoke’s Community Park.
Although the Tidewater Bombers of Chesapeake, Va., beat the Pirates 7-2 in the final game Sunday, the Pirates won the overall tournament because final standings were based on the runs each team allowed.
At the end of play, three teams were tied at 3 games won and one game lost. This tournament’s format was “pool play,” in which the teams are matched up as evenly as possible, said Jeramy Guillory, tournament director. Each team played four times and games lasted six innings or 90 minutes, whichever came first.
In the case of ties, the winners were chosen based on average runs allowed per game.
Since the Pirates had allowed only 2.25 average runs, they were the tournament winners, followed by the Bombers with three runs allowed, and the Tar River Cats of Rocky Mount with 3.75 runs allowed.
Pirate members were thrilled with their prizes: gold-tone tournament rings, which were similar to those of Super Bowl winners.
“We’ve never gotten rings before,” said Owen Fisher, 11, as he and his teammates celebrated their victory.
Ocracoke’s first multi-team tournament hit a home run among the visiting adults, many of whom were making their first visit to the island.
Owen’s mother, Brooke, a Raleigh resident, praised the tournament, the field, her first visit and ferry ride to Ocracoke and the reception by locals.
“This was just the best tournament,” she said. “It was the best vibe. People are excited to have us here.”
For a small island that’s accessible by car only by ferry, the adults were impressed with the ball field.
Ocracoke’s field is like a professional field with its scoreboard and press box high above home plate. The fields their kids play on elsewhere in the state are more basic.
“We don’t even have an electronic scoreboard,” Fisher said. “The coaches keep score.
“The music, the girls announcing—it was great.”
A few visitors took in a game.
While Guillory started off announcing the players, it soon gave way to the announcing prowess of Juliette Jordan, a third-grader, and Alyssa Bryan, a fifth-grader, who announced the players.
Visitors Randall Rowe, his wife, Crystal, and two young children, of Staunton, Va., watched Saturday’s action.
“We’re here on vacation and came out to see the home team,” Rowe said. “It’s a beautiful ballfield.”
Ocracoke’s 12U team the Rays, formerly called the Raptors, started off tentatively, losing with no runs scored to the Pirates in the first game of the tournament on Saturday, but on Sunday, they fared a bit better.
Brian Samick, secretary of the Ocracoke Youth Center, the parent organization for the park, said Sunday that the Rays’ first game that day against the Dare County All-Stars of Manteo ended in a score of 17-1.
“They were nervous yesterday,” he said about the Rays. “They’re a little better matched with this Manteo team.
“You should have heard the cheers when we made a run,” said islander Kelley Shinn, whose son, Silas, is a Ray.
Watching her first baseball game ever was Melanie Moser, an au pair from Dortmund, Germany, who was visiting the island with Whit Davis of Chesapeake, who is a nephew of islander Scott Bradley.
“Most of our kids said this was the most fun tournament they have played in, and we have played Myrtle Beach, Morehead City, and many other places,” said Sean Albert, a coach with the Bombers.
Final standings were as follows in descending order: the Carolina Pirates, 3-1-0; the Chesapeake Bombers, 3-1-0; the Tar River Cats, 3-1-0; the OBX Riptides, 2-2-0; the Dare County All-Starts, 1-3-0; and the Ocracoke Rays, 0-4-0.
“It was fantastic,” Guillory said Sunday after the event. “The impact of a tournament like this goes far beyond expectations. People who’ve never been here will come back.”
Guillory is working on finalizing a 10U tourney June 17 and 18.
Prior to that will be a Collegiate Wood Bat League match composed of college students–the OBX Daredevils (Kill Devil Hills) vs. the Greenbrier Knights of Virginia–at 3 p.m. June 15.
A fan appreciation dinner will be held after the game at Gaffer’s who is donating dinner to all of the 60 college players in the game. All are welcome to attend.
A 10U through 13U tournament is scheduled for July 15 and 16 including the Yorktown Raiders, Yorktown, Va., Camo Crushers, Aylett, Va., Blue Ridge Ballers, Ruckersville, Va. Local teams from Ocracoke and the Outer Banks will round out the tournament.
After the games and the awards Sunday evening, the Bombers didn’t vacate the field but began another game in a far corner of the field in the waning light.
Peals of laughter could be heard as the players tried to replicate their final winning game in a wiffle ball game.
Said Vince O’Neal, president of the Ocracoke Youth Center, as he helped clean up: “That’s what it’s all about—kids playing baseball.”