July 19, 2012 10:11:47 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The Columbus Nationals 10-year-old All-Star team was on an incredible high after winning the Dizzy Dean South State championship in Starkville.
With a berth in the World Series secured, coach Terry Fitch wanted to make sure the team was prepared. After taking a week off, Fitch and the Nationals regrouped Monday night to begin preparations for the 24-team event, which will begin Friday with opening ceremonies.
The excitement from a slamming 5-0 run through the South State tournament at McKee Park still had many of the players pumped up. But Fitch told his players Monday it was time to re-focus. He and his coaches then stressed to the players that they didn't need to worry about the other 23 teams that qualified for the World Series. They emphasized that they key for Columbus will be to continue to play baseball like it has for most of the summer. If it does, things will take care of themselves.
"We want to see how good we are," Fitch said. "We have no expectations other than to play good baseball like we have in the state tournament. We feel like we're going to have as good a chance as anybody to compete."
Fitch said Columbus will leave Friday morning to get to Southaven in time to participation in the organization of the tournament's bracket. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 7 p.m. The team's first game will follow sometime Saturday.
Fitch thanked everyone in the community who has supported the team with support and financial contributions. He said the outpouring has been significant and that it has given the squad a boost as it prepares for what he hopes will be fun-filled trip with plenty of scoring.
This time, Columbus's offense and pitching will have to do it against some of the best teams from the states of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana. The Nationals scored 35 runs in their final two games to take the South State title. West Lowery provided the final big blow with a grand slam in the title game against Louisville.
Although his team hasn't played any teams from outside the state of Mississippi, Fitch feels the group is prepared. He believes it is fundamentally sound and that it has plenty of pitching depth to make a run in the event.
"Teams that put a lot of runs on the board and have pitchers who throw a lot of strikes always are going to be in the game and are going to have a chance to win," Fitch said. "If we keep scoring runs like we have, we're going to be a hard team to beat. We probably averaged 18 to 20 runs a game in the state tournament, and only one of those games was in six innings. I feel if we continue to hit we can play with anybody."
Fitch was part of the first state championship baseball team at New Hope High in 1983 and went on to play baseball and basketball at East Mississippi Community College. He also coached his older son, Austin, on a team in 2006 that qualified for the 10-year-old Dizzy Dean World Series in Alabama. He said he felt that team was intimidated to be on a national stage, which is part of the reason he and the other coaches talked to the players Monday to get them in the right frame of mind. He said the size of the city the players are from won't matter this weekend. He said the key will be which team has fun and plays to its potential.
"If we get a good draw early and we get a couple of wins under our belt, I know if we can do that early I feel like we will be a scary team," Fitch said.
Team members are: Cade Stacey, Lawson Studdard, Tyler Murphy, Presley Hall, David Young, Lowery, Davis Fitch, Landon Sanderson, Brady Stewart, Stallone Shelton, and Cole Ruffin. Coaches are: Fitch, Jason Hall, Derek Lowery, and Shannon Murphy.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.