BOONE — Watauga’s Equip 12U baseball team is heading to states competition after finishing second in the Cal Ripkin Division 12 Tournament.

The top-three finishers in the tournament qualified for the Cal Ripkin Western North Carolina State Tournament beginning Thursday, June 23, in Matthews.

Hosting the double-elimination tournament that ran June 13-16, Equip was up against some of the best teams from around Western North Carolina and established themselves as one of the better teams with a 15-1 win over Alexander County in the first round.

However, a second round matchup with Wilkes ended 2-0 and meant Equip would have to go on a run through the loser’s bracket. A 6-0 win against Sherills Ford on Wednesday meant the Watauga team was going to have to beat Wilkes twice in one day if they wanted to take home the title.

Before the finals matchup, a special first pitch was thrown honoring the history of the fields they were playing on. Jeff Rucker and Taylor Shuford — the son and grandson, respectively, of Bill Rucker and Jody Shuford who helped bring baseball to Boone and who the Optimist Club’s fields were named after — threw out the first pitch to open the finals.

In the finals, Equip was motivated and got on top early. They put up eight runs in the first inning before even seeing a second out and would cruise to an emphatic 18-3 victory. But that win only reset the bracket, and Wilkes was ready in the second game.

The visitors got out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back, taking the title 8-1 by the end of the grueling double-header.

“We never played this Wilkes team before, they had some great pitching and great hitting,” Equip head coach James Gough said. “I was proud of our guys to come back, beat them decisively in the first game and then play a pretty good game through four innings of the second game. I think everyone was just exhausted in the last two innings.”

Gough praised Wilkes squad and said he was looking forward to seeing them also play at the state level and represent the district.

He said that going into the final, the coaching staff told the team that it would be a long day, but that already qualifying for the state tournament should not take away from the moment.

“Every inning in every game we’re playing is just making us better leading to the state tournament,” Gough said.

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