July 6, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The Columbus Nationals might be on the verge of putting it all together.
One day after delivering a solid defensive and pitching effort, Columbus Nationals'' bats got hot again to help it take a step closer to a title.
Tyler Anderson and LaQuinston Sharp hit home runs Sunday to help the Columbus Nationals 10-year-old All-Stars beat Eupora 21-4 in four innings at the Dizzy Dean South Half state tournament at Propst Park.
The Columbus Nationals are 3-0 in the event and will face Clinton at 6 p.m. today.
The winner of that game will advance to the championship game of the winners'' bracket at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The winner of the losers'' bracket would have to beat the only remaining undefeated team twice to win the South Half state title.
An if-game would be at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Teams report July 16 to the World Series in Tupelo.
Anderson had an inside-the-park home run in the second inning as part of a three-RBI day. Sharp hit a two-run home run over the right-center field fence in the fourth to help the Columbus Nationals set the stage for the mercy-rule victory.
"We hit the ball well and pitched well other than the second inning," Columbus Nationals coach Rory Sneed said. "Thomas Cooper came in and pitched a heck of a game and we hit the ball and played great defense. It all kind of came together today. This is what I have been expecting."
Sneed was pleased to see his team break out with a 14-hit effort Sunday after it didn''t hit the ball as well as he would have liked Saturday in an 11-1 victory against Grenada Youth in five innings.
On Sunday, eight players had hits, including Anderson and Deonteau Rieves with three each, and the team scored a run from each spot in the batting order.
Thomas Stevens (double) and Kyle Cruthirds also had two hits.
Sneed felt the victory was even more impressive considering the strength of the opponent. He believes Eupora is one of the top teams in the tournament and believes that his team delivered an effort that came close to matching its potential.
"I thought they did a great job," Sneed said. "I think they realize that just because you''re the better team doesn''t mean you''re always going to win. We have experienced some setbacks in the past and they realize the better team doesn''t always win if you don''t play up to your capabilities. I thought overall that was the best all-around effort we have had (in the tournament)."
The Columbus Nationals struck out three times and scored one run against Tanner Knight, a hard-throwing right-hander, in the first.
But the Columbus Nationals sent 11 to the plate in the second, scoring six runs and chasing Knight with one out in the frame.
Anderson''s home run was the only hit in the inning. Eupora pitchers walked five in the inning.
The Columbus Nationals sent 13 to the plate in a nine-run third that broke the game open.
While it benefited from errors and walks, the Columbus Nationals also had five extra-base hits, which showed it can win games in a variety of ways.
"We have the capability to drive the ball," Sneed said. "It was great hitting. We had a great bunt (by Dalton Ford) in the third after Eupora had scored four runs in the bottom of the second to make it 7-4. That was huge."
Sharp''s blast in the fourth capped the victory. The left-handed hitting first baseman said Boston Red Sox slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz is his favorite player. He said home run king Barry Bonds used to be his favorite player, but Ortiz has replaced him now that Bonds, the former San Francisco Giants left fielder, is out of baseball.
In the other winners'' bracket game Sunday, Clinton held on to beat West Point 12-9. Trailing by three runs, West Point had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, but Clinton recorded the final out on an infield grounder to advance to face the Columbus Nationals.
"We just came up a little short," said West Point manager Kevin Thompson said, whose team will face Ackerman at 4 p.m. today. "Our pitching staff (Ryan Crowley and Tae Hampton) did an excellent job. We had some errors in the field we really shouldn''t have made, but they hit the ball real good and had some real good players. They are probably one of the better teams here."
West Point beat Ackerman 15-4 on Thursday in the teams'' first game of the tournament.
Thompson said his team doesn''t get too high or too low after games, which gives him confidence that the team will be able to bounce back after its first loss in the tournament.
n Grenada P&R 7, Starkville 6: Starkville twice had the tying run on base in the top of the sixth inning but failed to push that baserunner across in its final game of the tournament.
Bradley Savage had a single and a triple, Connor Reinike, Thomas Roberts, Tyler Stovall, and Javian Sherman singled for Starkville. Sage Pritchard had an RBI.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.