July 5, 2009
Balance and depth have been keys for the Columbus Nationals and the West Point 10-year-old All-Stars teams in the first two days of the South State Tournament at Propst Park.
Both teams won their opening games Friday night and returned to the field Saturday to record their second-consecutive victories.
West Point edged Caledonia 9-8, while the Columbus Nationals beat Grenada Youth 11-1 in five innings to stay in the tournament''s winners'' bracket.
West Point will take on Clinton and the Columbus Nationals will face Eupora at 2 p.m. today. The winners of those games will play at 6 p.m. Monday for a spot in the tournament''s title game.
West Point used the pitching combination of Harrison Powell, Ryan Crowley, and Tae Hampton on Saturday to hold on against Caledonia.
West Point used a four-run second inning to answer Caledonia''s four-run outburst in the top half of the inning to take the lead for good.
"We did everything real good," West Point manager Kevin Thompson said. "We are playing solid baseball. We have had good pitching, good hitting, and we have kids coming off the bench."
West Point used the same pitching trifecta -- albeit with Powell, Hampton, and Crowley -- Saturday that worked Friday.
Thompson said the team has seven pitchers and five catchers, and that depth is critical, especially in a multi-day tournament setting. He said all 13 players have contributed to the victories.
"Everybody in our lineup can hit the ball," Thompson said. "If you have pitching and catching and when you can swap out players for ones who have fresh legs, you can win ballgames."
Columbus hopes its hitting can return to the form it showed Friday when it had 10 hits. The team scored a run from each spot in the lineup and batted around in each of the first two innings in a 15-4 victory against Starkville in three and a half innings. It also sent nine players to the plate in the third inning.
Such success can create havoc for a scorekeeper. Columbus manager Rory Sneed said he isn''t sure if his scorekeeper, Douglas Ford, uses a pencil or a pen just in case Columbus sends more than nine players to the plate in an inning.
Entering the tournament, Sneed said his team had the potential to score at least 10 runs a game. That kind of offensive production could make the team tough to beat.
"Hitting is our No. 1 priority," Sneed said. "We''re in the cage constantly with the kids. A lot of them play a lot of ball in the summer, which helps a lot."
Sneed said Tyler Anderson, Thomas Stevens, Deonteau Rieves, and LaQuinston Sharp, the first four hitters in the lineup, do a great job setting the tone and helping their teammates gain confidence that they can deliver when it''s their turn to hit.
Anderson had two hits against Starkville, while Rieves and Hunter Short added two RBIs. Sharp scored three runs, while Thomas Cooper scored twice.
Sneed said Columbus didn''t hit as well Saturday in its run-rule victory, but he said the team''s defense and pitching made up for it.
"We feel our pitching is solid enough that if we score 10 runs we can keep them from scoring 10 runs," Sneed said. "We played much better defense and pitched well for the most part."
Sharp earned the victory. Stevens came in in relief to finish the game.
Anderson and Rieves led the hitting attack with two hits each.
"I think we have played well," Sneed said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement. If we can get the hitting like we hit Friday night together with the defense we played today, we can play with anybody. We have a great group of kids."
Caledonia couldn''t regroup after beating Hamilton 13-2 on Friday. Noah Smith had two hits in two RBIs in the victory. Logan Suggs, Dylan Darling (RBI), Triston Gardner (RBI), Jared Reed-Wood (RBI), and Caleb Comer (RBI) also had hits for Caledonia.
Leo Bruff had a double and scored a run for Hamilton. Parker Griggs had a single and an RBI.
On Saturday, Suggs (RBI) and Comer each had two hits against West Point. Spencer Unruh and Smith also had a hit and an RBI.
Grenada P&R eliminated Caledonia with a 14-9 victory.
Shed Ross led Grenada P&R with three hits and an RBI, while Dee Burt, Radrez Hubbard, C.J. Avery, and Jaltavius Dosey all had two hits in a 14-hit attack that featured five extra-base hits, including an inside the park home run by Burt.
Suggs (RBI) and Darling had two hits for Caledonia against Grenada P&R. Comer, Brady Scarborough, Unruh, Reed-Wood, and Gardner also had hits.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.