July 7, 2010 10:55:00 AM
During the summer as the coach of the Columbus Dental Yankees in the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority 10-year old baseball league, Bruce Neal didn''t know what it was like to lose a game.
Neal coached the Yankees to the league championship with an unblemished 15-0 record.
"I asked the park how long it has been since a 10-year old team has gone undefeated and they couldn''t tell me," Neal said. "They can''t tell me how long it has been since that happened or if it''s happened."
Neal hopes to continue to have success when he coaches the Columbus All-Stars in the Dizzy Dean 10-year old South State Tournament in Grenada.
Columbus plays its first game in the tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday when it takes the field against Mathiston.
"I think we''re going to have a pretty good team," Neal said. "I think we''ve got a lot of pitching strength. We''ve got four pitchers that ought to do well. I think we''re going to be real strong defensively. We''ve been working on our bats for the last couple of weeks against a pitching machine to try to help the children with their batting strengths."
In other opening-round games Thursday, Starkville plays Ackerman at 9 a.m., Hamilton plays Greenwood at 11 a.m. and West Point plays Louisville at 3 p.m.
Josh Neal of the Yankees and Jeremy Tate of the Kiwanis Marlins lead the Columbus pitching staff, which also includes Octavian Stallings of the Nichols Crowell Red Sox, Leo Bell of the BMH Rays and Cade Odom of the West Construction Braves.
"You can''t play more than two games a day which means conceivably if the games work out right we could use our two strongest pitchers the entire tournament," Neal said. "If that''s the case, I''ve got two pitchers, that if they''re on, it''s going to be hard for teams to hit them. They''re that good. Josh Neal and Jeremy Tate are excellent pitchers. If they''re on while we''re up there, it will be hard for them to be hit. If we only play two games a day and we can use two pitchers and not have to use all five, we''ve got a shot."
The other players on the team are Cody Bolin, Anthony Klosterman and Nathan Wilson of the West Construction Braves, Stephen Berry of the American Eurocopter Mets and Jevarkus "Pooh Bear" Gardner of the Nichols Crowell Red Sox.
Columbus won two games and lost two in a warmup tournament at Starkville and won one game and lost two in a warmup tournament at Columbus in preparation for the South State tournament.
The warmup tournaments at Starkville and Columbus consisted of travel tournament teams and the Columbus All-Stars face the possibility of playing travel teams in the South State Tournament.
"The problem is there are so many kids in Lowndes County that aren''t playing park ball and they''re playing travel ball," Neal said. "The pickings are somewhat slim in that regard. As far as playing pure park all-star teams, I think we''ll do real well. I think we will participate well against comparative-type teams, but it''s going to be difficult to compete with teams that have been together for awhile."
Neal hopes the pitching works out to help him remain undefeated this summer.