Wetumpka 14s begin state title journey in Alexander CityPublished 3:00am Saturday, July 6, 2013
Wetumpka’s 14-year-old All-Stars have the opportunity to erase the memory of last summer’s one-win performance after punching their ticket to the 14-year-old Babe Ruth State Tournament (hosted by Alexander City July 6-9) Sunday afternoon with a win over defending champion Sylacauga.
“I love this group,” said Josh Williams, who coached all but two All-Stars as 13-year-olds the year prior. “This group has been together since they started as 5-and-6-year-olds. We picked up a couple of kids from Elmore County and Edgewood, but for the most part, these kids knew what they were getting into.”
Beginning Saturday morning, Wetumpka will tangle with Lincoln at 9 and then face Alex City that afternoon at 2. The All-Stars will come back Sunday afternoon at 12:30 and face Monroe County in the final pool game of the weekend. The top four teams will come back Monday for a single-elimination affair leading to the crowning of a new state champion. A trip to the state championship would be the reward for a season spent improving. After two weeks of fundamental baseball, practicing under the cool Alabama sun, the 14-year-olds made their way to the Syalcauga diamond and a berth into the District Tournament.
“I really think whoever was able to win our district, has probably got a strong chance in state,” said Williams. “Sylacauga blew through everybody last year as 13s. We did beat them, our only win.”
Offensively, the 14s were led by Hoyt Hardin (6-for-15) and his 7 RBIs. Miller Williams hit Wetumpka’s only home run of the tournament and Shannon Darnell finished the weekend 5-for-15 with 6 RBIs.
In District, the 14-year-old Wetumpka All-Stars defeated Alex City 13-5 on the first night and then held on to beat Sylacauga 2-1 in the semifinals.
“We’ve been focusing on limiting the walks allowed,” said Williams. “And we wanted to be fundamentally sound, practicing everyday for the past two weeks.”
Hayden Pickens (eight strikeouts through four games) and Darnell (allowed a total of eight base hits through three games) combined for the win as Wetumpka rallied late to push two home.
Sylacauga ended Alex City’s district title hopes, but not their postseason. Alex City hosts the tournament and has an automatic berth.
In the championship, Sylacauga struck first tuning up Wetumpka’s pitching staff in an 18-5 beating.
“We kind of lost our composure a little during that game,” said Williams.
“We got down a little. But these kids came out and played fantastic.”
The loss was Wetumpka’s first and only of the tournament.
In the final, Wetumpka’s offense came to life early and often, jumping ahead 4-0. Dylan Norton got the start and kept Sylacauga’s bats at bay.
“He’s not an everyday pitcher,” said Williams. “But, he ran out there and pitched four good innings. That put us in a much better position for later in the game.”
Williams pointed out that this served as a confident booster for Norton and could be helpful in Alex City.
“He can go into the tough situations and do what he needs to do,” said Williams.
Sylacauga rallied back to take a 5-4 lead late into the game.
The game turned in Wetumpka’s favor when Troy Schofield (3-for-6, 3 RBIs) stepped to the plate in a pinch-hit effort. He turned on a bases loaded offering and drove it deep into the outfield pushing two runs home in the process. The run-scoring double gave Wetumpka a 6-5 lead en route to the 10-6 final.
“Sylacauga is the defending state champions for a reason,” said Williams.
“But in our two games against them, we had zero errors. Our defense performed when we needed them to the most.”