Belmont Bandits 9U baseball team
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2017 BELMONT BANDITS
Jun 23, 2017 - The River of Dreams
What a day. What a season, but what a fantastic Sunday we had this week. Happy Father’s Day to the men who choose to be involved in their kids’ lives. No matter what your official title is to the player on our team, your presence is awesome. The time both our moms and dads spend with their kids, and also choosing to hang out with our little group on the weekends instead doing all of the many other things there are to do is much appreciated. Sunday was a good day for that most importantly. Secondly, we did play baseball and how the kids played on the field was just the icing on the cake. It was a great day before our prelude into vacation mode for our team. There will be many beach trips, relaxation and reflection during the next month, and it is well deserved for our parents and players. We have worked them hard, demanded a level of play that is not required by most at any age and had goals to achieve. We have met many of them, and now it is time to cap off the end of the official regular season for our team. We started practice in late January, and games in late February. So, we have practiced together for five months and played games for the last four months. We do have that one more tournament we have qualified to play in, but with limited practices and that tournament basically being in what Belmont refers to as ‘football season’ (late July), what we have done to this point IS what we are. If anyone wanted to play us at our best, we were accepting all takers these last few months. Still, we may do a scrimmage or two in the coming weeks if we can find an opponent, but until then – it is sweet, sweet summertime and lots of vacations for our families. We all end in the ocean…..
At the beginning of this year, we had a couple parent meetings letting you know the coaching staff was ramping up expectations and demands of practice and play. With mostly the same group as the previous year, we expected growth. There is nothing wrong if a player does not get better at baseball; most people don’t get better at baseball because it’s a really hard game to play. As you get older, it gets harder. But, everyone on our team worked hard this year. They did not complain, and for the most part gave it their best shot every practice and game. Playing baseball at this age, at any age, is a work in progress. I like where our guys are now, especially considering where some of them were when we started. This is typically the biggest jump you make in baseball (from coach to kid pitch). There are a lot of uncontrolled variables that you have to learn to adapt to, and get good at in a short amount of time. Talent and skill are two different things. Every kid on our team raised their baseball skill level the last two years dramatically, but this year in particular we saw big growth when we did not always expect to see it so soon. We held most of our practices down by the river, on the same red mud/clay fields a lot of Belmont kids have learned how to play baseball on the last sixty years. We all start in the streams…..
Our players played for one another. They bought into what we are saying. I’ve had plenty of teams who have not bought in. I’ve pieced together teams of guys who had a LOT of talent, but wouldn’t take instruction so their skill level did not bolster as quickly as it could have. I’ve had teams that were really good but not real talented, and some that were really talented and not real good. I had a team a few years ago that could have been as good as this one, but they were well under .500 because of bad attitudes, me first players and over-involved parents with selfish intent about their kids. So, it’s good our boys have learned not to ride the coattails of others to win A championship. You can get by in baseball cutting corners for a while, but it catches up to you. Coaches don’t ask kids to do anything they have not already done, and certainly always want what is best for them. This group was not like that at all. I have not learned anything new, and have taught the same thing for a long time now. The difference is you parents encouraged your kid to listen, not play the social engineering game, and were happy to have a place as a member on a great team. There is a lot to be said about our parents and the players who were willing to do that at this young age. Thank you very much. Now, we won’t play during the fall like any normal Bandit season. We are well aware that this is where a lot of teams keep on playing, accumulating points against a weaker field as most kids go onto play other sports. Make no mistake about it – we accomplished what we did during baseball season, and did not backdoor our way into any meaningless championships against paper tigers. There will also be vultures that come out in full force during the fall, as well as the spring: Beware. We don’t have any one reason we did very well this year. No one player is irreplaceable. We should all be proud that this group did it together, during the time they were given to make their attempts. We're all carried along…..
The first games we played in our initial kid pitch tournament were against teams that all played in the fall. That was not really an issue, even though we went 2-2. Two of those losses were in hour long games where we walked something like 20 batters in two games. Our pitchers didn’t do anything differently the rest of the year, and we averaged about three walks a game. So, I think it is safe to say that when we thought we were getting a raw deal that one day in Concord, we were. An overall record of 31-6 in the toughest league/competition we could find is impressive to me. As of this week – which is when we stopped playing baseball, here are our current rankings from the Top Gun website for the state of NC which include all games from 1/1/17 to present:
-We finish our regular season with a 31-6 overall record, which is an 84% win percentage.
-We have beaten 2 of the top 5 other (not including our own team) top ranked Division 1 Top Gun teams head to head on the field.
-This year we have won four Gold Championships, a runner-up Gold, and won two Silver Championships.
-Three Gold Championships in a row.
-We finished the final games of this season 23-1.
-We were undefeated in the month of April and June (8-0 in each month). We were 7-1 in May.
-We won 96% of our baseball games in the last three months against top competition.
-We scored 472 runs this year, and gave up 167; a run differential of 305.
-We are ranked #1 in Division 1, 9u baseball in Top Gun which is the toughest league to compete in.
-We are ranked top 10 in Power Rankings. I have no idea how that is calculated. I do see the team who is #1 in these rankings currently has played in one tournament together so it's hard to put very much weight into this.
-We have competed and beaten teams from as far away as Asheville to the other side of Monroe, and from Cleveland, NC down to upstate SC. We also live and play in the travel ball epicenter of NC. There are more teams, facilities and basball programs around here than there are churches....so that's a whole lot.
-Last year we were 25-7, so in two years we have a 56-13 record.
**Something to consider; another top team in the state is 37-17. For the purposes of comparison, playing and winning a lot of games is great, but we have the most number of points while playing nearly 20 less games (which equates to 5 less tournaments). Another top team is 27-17, so you are definitely rewarded for playing more tournaments and being eligible to get more points. Assuming we played that number of games, and if our win % gives a strong indication we might win 2 out of those extra 4 or 5 tournaments and possibly place in another one, we might have an extra 1,500-2,000 points to clearly distance ourselves from others. But, we believe in sports seasons still; and hopefully these kids well-rounded athletic pursuits will mean no Tommy John surgeries or worn out love affairs with any one particular sport by age 14.
This is pertinent information, because we aren’t some west side All Stars from city X with a population of 300,000, or a team made up of kids from all over three towns or counties. Our kids came from a town of about 10 square miles, and most live within 3 square miles of each other. These last few tournaments have come full circle with where we envisioned this group being, and I am proud of that last 24 games mark where we went 23-1. A lot of things have to come together in order to have the end result we had this year. This won’t happen every year, but we will lace up our spikes next season and try to do it all again as we play The Greatest Show on Dirt. As baseball years go, at any age, this was a dream season. You don’t run across many of these type seasons so it should be realized, understood and acknowledged how well the team did this year. We are most definitely a small-town team, without question. We have no facility. We play baseball in the dirt and grass. We hustle, yell, sweat, laugh and hug…and we will keep on doing what we know how to do. By the river of dreams…..
Jun 22, 2017 - 2-day tryout ends today; fields are ready!!
Thanks to the boys who had the ambition to tryout for the team these last two days! A big step in seeing who will fit in on this team is finding out who isn't afraid of competition, and when you show up to a tryout you are indicating just that. So, kudos to the guys who came out and put their best foot forward this week. Nobody will get placed on this team without trying out, so this part of the process is a crucial first step for any prospective Bandit.
Thanks for the late adaptation to our schedule today. It looked like we might not get the tryouts in due to rain, but we will! The kids have done great, and it is obvious Belmont could field another good team from what we saw this week. Thanks to those players who displayed their boldness in trying out.
To win the game against Park Sharon in the semi-finals was pretty much like winning the championship. We knew that games don't get too much tougher than that one, and we figured out a way to win it so we felt in good position for the Final Championship game. We had the ForTec Defenders set to play, and we got right down to business.
This turned out to be a really quick, three inning game which was great not only because it was a Gold Championship win, but because the previous game was an emotional roller coaster, and we were hoping to get out of this one alive quickly too. Blake Hartness pitched for us, and did a great job on the mound giving up only two runs and striking out one batter. Our defense was pretty solid, and we helped our pitcher out once again in this game. Even after ForTec jumped out on us in the top of the first inning with two runs, when it was our time to hit....we hit, we ran, we hustled and we made plays happen. Sometimes in baseball, especially youth baseball, things snowball. That happened to our opponent a little bit, and once we got going good they folded up the tents kinda early and realized that even though they got the first shot in, we were ready for 12 rounds. We ended up with a 17-2 victory in three innings in this one, and played well overall.
Offensively, Zeke Pruitt continued the best weekend of his life going 3-3 in this game (2 singles, 2B, 3 runs scored). Landon King went 2-2 (2 singles, 1 run), Chris Wurster went 2-2 (2 singles, 1 run) and Blake Hartness helped his cause on the mound going 2-2 with 2 doubles and scoring 2 runs. One of those doubles was a big Ground-Ruled Double that narrowly missed going out of the park. It was an opposite field shot, and another five feet would have meant a home run. We also had Brody Crawford going 2-3 (single, double, reached via error and scored 3 runs), Patrick Blee going 1-3 (but also reached via error plus a walk and a double and scored 1 run), and Luke Lassiter scored a big double and also reached via error, which allowed him to score two runs. It was a happy dugout and fenceline on our side, as Father's Day and our regular tournament season ended on a high note. A lot of preparation and time goes into these seasons, so thanks to the assistant coaches for doing as much as they do. We are to a point now where we think, say and do so many things similar that it makes the game more fluid for our players. Quicker, concise instruction and reminders work well with 9-12 year old brains. We look forward to closing out the whole season in about a month, but this break in the mean time will be enjoyed. Five month seasons wear on you a little bit when you put the effort we do. We have stuff coming up here and there, and hopefully we can get some scrimmage games lined up. In the next day or so, I will send out some info on here for our parents viewing pleasure recapping the season from February to June. Happy Trails to you, and welcome summer.
Jun 19, 2017 - Burger King Crowns All Around
Another Gold Championship Sunday for the Belmont Bandits, and we came away victorious. Lots of action to recap in this one- so let's jump right in with two feet. This will only be the first game on Sunday, because I get tired just thinking about it. You're welcome, Blee.
First up was a game against the Park Sharon Nationals. There was a lot of buzz around this game because they had their full assortment of players ready to play, and we know they are one of the better teams in the area to compete against. On top of that, Carolina Travel Sports was broadcasting the game Live on Facebook. The word is we had about 500 viewers during this game at times, so the boys had a larger than normal audience to showcase their skills. Zeke Pruitt got the nod on the hill, and he went a sturdy four complete innings against a tough hitting team. He gave up five runs during those four innings, and struck out three batters. It was an impressive performance because he kept coming at the hitters all day long, no matter the previous pitch, out or play. Once he was relieved of pitching duties, he also made a couple of his best defensive plays on the year. He stopped one line shot that literally knocked him backwards....but he stayed behind the ball, and watched it in his glove which made the coaches happy to see. Landon King came in to further frustrate the Nationals when his two innings pitched featured five strikeouts and only one hit allowed. They were a geat pitching tandem in this game for the Bandits. Brody Crawford was our pitchers' best friend during this game, as he made several big, running catches to eliminate the threat of some shots the Nationals hit. They could absolutely hit, and we needed the defense along with the pitching to be in this game. Bug Green caught a great game behind the plate, and was a big reason our defense ran smoothly.
Pruitt also saved his best offensive game of the year for Sunday's first tilt. He went 2-3 with a walk, a double, two runs scored.....oh yeah, I forgot....he also had a 2-run moonshot HOME RUN in the first inning. This was huge because it answered the top of the first Nationals inning where they notched two runs early. Carsten Green had a great game at the plate in this one as well, going 2-2 (1B, 2B, BB and 2 runs scored). Aydan Bradley had a big hit for us when he smashed a ground-ruled double. One of the biggest plays in this game for either side came in the bottom of the third inning though. Feeling momentum slipping through our grasp, we sandwiched Pruitt and Green doubles with outs. So, we had a tie game with two outs and desparately needed a player to make something happen. Landon King came in and walked with one runner on. Walker Spargo ran the pitcher to a four ball thank you sir, which loaded the bases for the next batter. Those previous guys were eager to hit, but didn't see enough strikes before getting sent to first base via first class airmail. Christopher Wurster steps in to hit, and he turned out to be just the man for a job that was needing done. Wurster has been hot these last few tournaments and we have watched his confidence soar, as ours has in him. The opposing pitcher delivers an early count strike and Wurster sends it to the fence in left center scoring two runs and lifting our team to a lead pony position. What a huge hit - and what perfect timing! Fast forward to the last inning (which happened to be the fifth, due to time limits), and the Nationals park one run on us in the top of the fifth to send the game to extra innings. Using the international tie-breaker rules, we got to start in the field (second to bat, as the home team/number 1 seed) with the opponent's runner on second base. They scored one run in the top half, which meant we had to score one to tie, and two to win. Wurster started out on second base. We had a couple strikeouts between Luke Lassiter's reaching base via error, so we did get the runner over to third base and also Luke to second base. Brody Crawford strides up to bat full of confidence, and hits a ball to SS that is bobbled for a 1/2 second that scores Wurster and ties the game. Crawford was safe as soon as he hit the ball to the left side. Pruitt at bat next, gets intentionally walked so the bases can be loaded, and the opponent can get a force out at each base. That sends Patrick Blee up to the plate, our number 3 hitter. Blee proceeds to send a zero ball, one strike pitch liner to right center that scores Lassiter and lifts the Bandits to the Gold Championship round. Big time play, by a big time player. The crowd, the kids and the MILLIONS WATCHING ON FACEBOOK LIVE went nuts.
These plays, and these players propelled us to the championship game to be played immediately after this game. All we needed was 15 minutes and a snickers, and we were ready to get back after it.
Jun 18, 2017 - June heat in full force for tourny play
Day one of our tournament this weekend turned out nicely. We went 2-0 and advanced to the Gold Championship as the #1 seed. We had to play a really tough out - the Team 24 Gamecocks first, and then the SBA Canes 8u team second.
Team 24 brought their normal brand of fire, and looked to capitalize on our mistakes. They did do that a few times, and as usual were a tough group to put away. We ended up with a pedestrian 9-3 win, but you could see the rust in our play this first tournament game back. Our pitchers and defense was pretty good in this game. Brody Crawford made a diving catch in centerfield to stop a rally and help out his pitcher. Patrick Blee looked smooth at SS, once fielding a ball behind second base to nail a runner at first and also turning an unassisted double play. Pitching was above average, and we hope to build on that for Sunday's play. Blake Hartness started and in an inning gave up only 1 hit and 1 run. Zeke Pruitt came onto to solidy our defense from the mound and sparkled with 3 innings pitched and struck out 5 while only giving up 1 hit and 1 run. Walker Spargo closed the game out going 2 innings and only allowing 1 run. We had some nice offensive games from some of our guys too. Aydan Bradley led with 2-3 (2 doubles, 1 run), Zeke Pruitt going 2-2 (2 doubles, BB, 2 runs, 3 plate appearances / 3 times on base, and Brody Crawford who went 1-3 with a double and scored 3 runs (and also reaching base twice via error, so also 3 plate appearances / 3 times on base). Blee was another hard luck guy at the plate going 0-3, but reaching 3 times on errors. He ended up scoring twice in addition to getting on base three times with his speed and hustle. Putting pressure on defense with that kind of mentality is what we expect from our guys. Walker Spargo finished off the offensive show with a 1-2 performance including a picture perfect bunt for hit. He also reached via hit batsman, so he was on base twice in this game out of three appearances. Overall - it was a solid win, in a tough first game back to business environment. It was hot, humid but the skies were clear so we made hay. Proud of the boys for fighting to win this game.
In game two we played SBA Canes 8u. We won this game 17-0 in three innings. Landon King and Blake Hartness combined to pitch this game, and did well. Landon threw 2 innings with 6 strikeouts and 0 runs allowed. Blake threw 1 inning and allowed no runs. Luke Lassiter made a couple of nice running grabs in the outfield as well. We had several players light it up offensively. Guys with multiple hits were: Landon King (2 doubles, 1 run), Patrick Blee (1B, 2B, 2 runs), Zeke Pruitt (2-3 (1B, 2B, 1 run) and Brody Crawford with 2-3 (2 doubles, 3 runs scored...he also reached via error which allowed him to score the third run). Blake Hartness had a big ground-ruled double in this game and scored a run. Chris Wurster and Luke Lassiter also had doubles in this game. This was a quick game, and we were ready to be out of the heat and get home. Thanks to the Skippers for hosting the Father's Day Cookout - it was a great time.
On the day, it should be pointed out that we had some hot hitting guys. Zeke went 4-5 with five times getting on base out of six plate appearances and scored 3 runs. Brody got on six times out of six plate appearances, and went 3-6 on the day scoring six times. Patrick reached base five times out of six plate appearances and scored four runs. Getting guys on base and getting them in to score is how you win games. Kudos to these boys for doing it.
We look forward to Sunday's championship round against very tough competition. Happy Father's Day to everyone out there - we hope to give you a great present today at the ballfield. Go Bandits.
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