July 1, 2011 8:59:00 AM
The unknowns will crystallize tonight.
Columbus 8-and-under Dizzy Dean softball coach Jay Cook hopes his players are ready when everything comes into focus.
Cook and his players will put their efforts to the test at 7 tonight when they take on the Nettleton Diamond Divas on the Redbird A field in the double-elimination, coach-pitch North State tournament at Propst Park.
The game is one of four scheduled for tonight that will kick off the three-day event.
Cook, who coached the Marlins to first place in the Propst Park league in Columbus, has 12 players from the league''s four teams. He feels he has a versatile group of girls that is ready for the challenge of playing tough competition and outlasting the heat that is expected this weekend.
"I don''t think we do any one thing great, but we''re good at a lot of things," said Cook, who also worked as a coach of the All-Star team last season. "We''re a solid defensive team, we have some power hitters, and we have other girls who can put the ball in play every time."
Cook doesn''t think his experience as coach will help prepare him or the players for what they will face tonight and in the rest of the tournament. Still, he feels his time with the girls allows him to find the right balance to help them play their best.
"You have to be at their level," Cook said. "I don''t pretend to be the greatest softball coach ever, but I think I do get the girls to have fun and to play hard. We don''t have a win-at-all-costs approach. We do try to teach them to be successful at whatever they do."
Cook said he tries to accomplish that goal with a lot of positive reinforcement. The team went through its final practice Thursday night in preparation for this evening. He feels the team is ready.
"If we play the way we''re supposed to play I think we can play with anybody," Cook said. "We have a confident group of girls, but when they are 7 and 8 years old I don''t know if they know any better than to be confident."
Team members include: Reagan Cook, Sydney Adair, Ally Grace Hardy, Reece Stacy, Bailey Harris, Reed McGlothin, Danadia Willis, Shakiya Bailey, Aniya Saddler, Makaijah Taylor, Kelsi Little, and Mandy Ferguson.
Starkville 11-year-old All-Stars split two games
LOUISVILLE -- The Starkville 11-year-old Dizzy Dean All-Stars rebounded from a 19-18 loss to Tupelo on Thursday night to defeat Saltillo 15-1 in three innings to stay alive in the double-elimination state tournament.
Starkville will play East Central at 2 p.m. today in a losers'' bracket matchup. The team will play again at 6 p.m. today if it wins.
Tupelo scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning to send Starkville into the losers'' bracket.
But Starkville coach Steve Wylie was pleased with the way his team responded from the tough loss.
"To score 18 runs and 15 runs in two games, we''re hitting the ball real good," Wylie said. "We''re looking good on pitching. We used five pitchers in two games, and nobody''s pitch count got real high."
Wylie hopes Starkville will be able to maintain its hot pace at the plate. It will need to if it wants to stay alive and work its way through the losers'' bracket to earn a possible rematch against Tupelo.
"Hopefully we will be able to keep our bats hot like they are and our pitching will hold up," Wylie said. "If we can hold the other team down and score some runs hopefully everything will pan out."
Columbus 9-year-old All-Stars lose
EUPORA -- Stallone Shelton had a single and a double Thursday, but Columbus couldn''t hold a four-run lead and lost to Ackerman 8-5 on Thursday in its first game in the Dizzy Dean 9-year-old double-elimination state tournament at Gary Park.
Columbus was scheduled to play Tupelo at 9 a.m. today. T he winner of that game is scheduled to play at 4:30 p.m. today.
Davis Fitch had a triple, Presley Hall had a double, and Cade Stacy, Landon Sanderson, and Tyler Murphy each had hits.
Sanderson pitched the first three innings before giving way to David Young, who took the loss.
Columbus led 5-1 but four consecutive errors in the same inning allowed Ackerman to rally.
Caledonia 7-year-old All-Stars fall
LOUISVILLE -- The Caledonia 7-year-old All-Stars lost to Grenada Elite 19-9 Thursday in their first game of the Dizzy Dean double-elimination state tournament.
Caledonia will play the Columbus Nationals, who lost to Ackerman 21-6, at 4:30 p.m. today.
Caledonia coach Johnny Suggs said John Tyler Moore, Luke Suggs, Tyler Honeycutt, and Hayden Palmer played well. Parker Harris had a double, and Cole Criddle had a "good shot," according to coach Suggs.
"We had several good hits," Suggs said.
Columbus 7-year-old Americans win two
LOUISVILLE -- The Columbus Americans 7-year-old Dizzy Dean All-Star team scored 50 runs Thursday en route to victories in its first two games at the state tournament.
Columbus beat Grenada Rec 30-13 in the first game and defeated Saltillo 20-7 in the second game.
It will play at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Grenada Youth.
In the first game, Decamby Willis had a home run and a single, and Mack Howard also had four hits. Wesley Miller, Drew Huskison, Luther Hackman Jr., Lunden Hamilton, Trent Bouldes, and Luke Sneed all had three hits. Tyliq Stallings, Jackson Smith, and Trey Naugher had hit, Henry Dismuke III and Antonio Roland each had two hits.
In the second game, Huskison, Bouldes, and Roland had home runs, Miller had two hits, Huskison had three more, Willis had a single and a triple, Hackman Jr. had two hits, Howard had a single and a double, Hamilton had two hits, Brandon Watson had a hit, Bouldes had three more hits, Dismuke III and Naugher added two hits apiece, and Luke Sneed had a hit.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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