Johnson City, TN (WJHL) — The Johnson City Doughboys rode an early lead and a combined six-hit, 14-strikeout performance by two pitchers to defeat the Burlington Sock Puppets 4-1 Thursday and claim the Appalachian League championship.

Local players Colby Backus (Daniel Boone HS/Walters State/UT), Caleb Berry (Milligan University) and Caleb Marmo (Science Hill/Walters State) all contributed on the offensive side, with Backus and Berry accounting for six of the team’s 10 hits. Marmo contributed a sacrifice fly that pushed across the Doughboys’ first run in the bottom of the second.

Left fielder Backus cranked two doubles and scored a run in a 3 for 4 night at the plate. Berry, a catcher, was also 3 of 4 with one double and a run and RBI.

Johnson City Doughboys catcher Caleb Berry connects on an RBI double in the 8th inning of the team’s 4-1 victory over the Burlington Sock Puppets in the 2023 Appalachian League championship game in Johnson City, Tenn. Aug. 2. (Photo: WJHL)

“Oh, it’s a great feeling,” Marmo told News Channel 11 as teammates celebrated behind him after the win.

“We got a good team morale here. Being a local guy who played here a while, it’s a good time.”

After Marmo’s sac fly, the Doughboys plated additional runs in the third and fourth innings to give start Justin Guiliano a 3-0 lead. Guiliano would exit after five scoreless innings in which he struck out six and scattered four hits.

Hayden Cooper came on and allowed a run in the sixth, but cruised the rest of the way and fanned eight batters over four innings while allowing just two hits. Berry drove home an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with his double and Cooper breezed through the final frame, striking out the final two batters to set off a raucous celebration in front of more than 4,000 fans at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

The Doughboys finished the regular season 35-10. They were 21-3 at home going into the one-game championship against East Division champion Sock Puppets, who had handed them two of their three home defeats.

“Absolutely incredible and it’s all because of the players, man,” Manager Kevin Mahoney told News Channel 11. “They’ve worked hard every single day. They came to play and, it was an absolute pleasure watching them just get better every single day.”

A happy Backus said rolling to a championship with some teammates he’s known for years made for a fun summer.

“It’s like almost Little League again,” he said. “I mean, me and Malmo and (Braden) Spano, we’ve been playing together since middle school and so it just kind of brings us back to those times. And it’s been a lot of fun and a great ride.”

A year after finishing second in the West Division behind Kingsport, the Doughboys kept the championship in Tennessee. For Burlington, it was a second straight disappointment after capturing the East crown only to fall in the final.