July 16, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Rory Sneed doesn''t want this weekend to be any different for the Columbus Nationals 10-year-old Dizzy Dean All-Star team.
The pageantry of this weekend''s World Series in Tupelo might make Sneed and the team''s other coaches work a little harder to keep their players focused.
But Sneed isn''t worried that his players will get caught up in the hoopla surrounding the annual event, which will feature some of the best teams from across the country.
"We''re trying not to put any extra pressure on them. Most of all we want them to have fun," Sneed said.
The Columbus Nationals will learn today who they will play Friday in their first game in the World Series.
Sneed said the team has spent the past eight days preparing to make the trip to Tupelo. He knows the magnitude of the event will be bigger than the 16-team South Half state tournament at Propst Park last week, and believes his players won''t allow trading pins with other teams at the World Series and other events that accompany the event will affect his team.
"It''s a production to go to the World Series," Sneed said. "There are a lot of things that go with the tournament, and they need to experience them and to have fun."
Sneed and his coaches tried to impress that mind-set to their players after the Columbus Nationals rallied from the losers'' bracket to beat Ackerman and then defeated Clinton on consecutive nights to take the South Half state title.
The team''s pitching and hitting strength carried it through the tournament. Deonteau Rieves, LaQuinston Sharp, and Logan Sneed pitched well in the final days of the tournament to help the team earn a trip to Tupelo.
Clinton''s top two pitchers exhausted their 12 innings of allowed work and weren''t available for the final two games against the Columbus Nationals.
Sneed said pitching depth will be a key this weekend.
"I think we saw in the state tournament some teams that probably overall may have been as good as we are but maybe did not have the pitching to go along with it," Sneed said. "If you do not have pitching depth your chances of success are diminished. I feel comfortable with six or seven guys throwing if we need to."
The Columbus Nationals also have a potent hitting attack that gives Sneed confidence.
Tyler Anderson, Thomas Stevens, Rieves, and Sharp usually provide the spark at the top of the lineup. But the rest of the lineup showed at the South Half state tournament that the team can hit from the top of the lineup to the bottom.
The team''s success at the plate has helped it build early leads, which Sneed said will be another key this weekend.
"Getting off to a good start always helps," Sneed said. "If we get down 5-0 or 6-0 they get a little down on themselves and they do not respond well and try to come back and make a game of it or win."
Sneed believes his team''s showing at the South Half state tournament will give it an added advantage. He said the team bounced back well from a loss to Clinton in the winners'' bracket and gained a lot of confidence from its final two victories against Clinton.
"It gave them a lot of confidence to know they''re capable of coming back if something does not go right," Sneed said.
Needless to say, Sneed said everyone with the team is excited to be going to the World Series. Last year, the team earned a berth in the World Series but elected not to travel to the event.
This year, Sneed hopes his team can make a solid showing.
"I think they all know we have a lot of potential if we continue to hit and pitch," Sneed said. "I feel comfortable and that we have a really good chance to be competitive. Most of the boys have played travel ball, and as the competition gets tougher they know how to respond."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.