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Belmont Bandits 11U baseball team

 

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Jul 10, 2019 - It's Football Season

Even though it's football season, we are set to play in the Summer Nationals tournament through Top Gun down in Myrtle Beach, SC on July 18-21. People think late summer/early August is baseball time...it's not. Most of yall aren't watching MLB (if you have any sense) and you probably aren't going to any random baseball games in 90 degrees unless you are required to attend. It will be hot, and miserable playing ball at the beach, but it's an exciting time and place to wrap up our baseball season... and at a great little ballpark. Central Park in Myrtle is an awesome venue to play at, and close to Dino's....so I will be happy. There is a great playground set for the younger kids, and actual shade. Despite most ballfields resembling the Sahara, Central Park really does have some sprawling trees that provide relief from the abusive sun. The park also has picnic table areas and nice fields. Parking is up along the fields, and also behind a crab leg place across a small side street. The schedule is set, and unable to be changed once released so that is an awesome first we haven't seen recently. It doesn't matter who you play - we all can beat one another at anytime so make sure you get there early and get a good spot.

Every game should have our fans at the edge of their seats, as the competition is stiff around every corner. For the teams that actually have a roster showing on Top Gun's website, when you look at them it resembles a telephone book of names listed. Most of our kids don't even have middle names, so we are behind the eight ball already. Hell, I can't even remember our players' names and we only have ten of them...and most on the team have been around since they were eight years old. If we had a revolving door of guys, I would just have to call everybody "buddy" or "mack". But, with that size pool to work with, you can bet every team will be loaded with good players and eager to make a splash. Tis the season for coaches to add players to the roster to be more competitive, so their laundry lists will grow along with their confidence. That's one more obstacle we will ask our boys to overcome while we are down in SC playing ball;  it only makes our iron sharper in the long run.

We will send out more info on when to show up on day one/Thursday play additional to the schedule that is already out;  we need to make sure we are prepared to play because every game counts. The beach weather can be a little crazy, and just like in our more recent tourny near Savannah...be prepared to play at unusual times if we are postponed due to rain. We will try to practice a little bit tomorrow and Friday, but will not get a whole lot in before we all go to the beach around Wednesday...especially with the forecast around home. So, it's about time we let the John Tommy's keep on throwing the white leather for the next few months while our young men broaden their horizons on a different kind of field here soon.

Jul 1, 2019 - Georgia on my mind

Our crew went down for a fun-filled long weekend in the greater Savannah, Georgia area to compete against some local teams, which include Georgia and low country South Carolina boys. We also got to play against a team made up mostly fellow North Carolinians from the eastern seaboard and Virginia state line based out of Elizabeth City. This was the biggest Top Gun event in this area of Georgia in their history, so we were happy to be involved. At the end of the weekend, we went 6-0 and snared the Gold Championship in this three-day tournament that tested our pitching, patience, will and resolve. All of those things were proven to be intact and ultimately bolstered by trial and error and new opportunities given and taken.

We had rough weather while we were in town to play ball. The weather is as unpredictable as the scenery is beautiful, so we had to focus, re-focus and start, stop a whole lot during the weekend. On day one (Friday), we had two games scheduled to play. We had the very unusual one hour and thirty minute game times all weekend due to rain issues…so it made it tough to do what was needed to secure victories in short time, and against some slower pace teams. We watched a lot of three inning games with other teams facing each other this weekend, which limits your opportunities to score runs on offense. We competed well in both of those and were able to beat a local team Chain Gang/Chambliss by a score of 10-5. In Game two, we Defeated Scoutz USA 13-7. Even though we controlled both games very heavily, we had to fight tooth and nail for every inch in EVERY one of our games. There is a lot of pride in these Georgia communities, so even when you could be up 11-0 and secure the number one seeding, “things” happen to help extend the games a little bit. Mercy flags aside, we closed out that last game, and ended up being the #4 seed even though the scoreboards did not reflect how dominant our play was on the field that first day. Perfect opportunity to show the boys how life ain’t fair again….and those people helped make our crew a little tougher and mentally sharp. We appreciate the help.

Saturday provided unpredictable weather, long waits and eager anticipation of play only to be doused with frustration and unknown. If we would have closed out the second game the previous night, we would have had a later start time, and less unknown for our games on Saturday, but going the hard path is sometimes fun too. We played at 11am on Saturday in game three and cruised past the Hilton Head Hurricanes 12-4. We ended up being at the ballfield all day long on Saturday in anticipation of playing more games, but had to wait on other games’ outcome due to being the #4 seed. On top of that, we had to wait on the rain showers that pelted us while on site. The site director had some of his regular help out of town this weekend, so he was a little thin on grounds crew. We had a huge monsoon pour down around mid day, and the infield that we were supposed to play on was under water. We were told that the field was unplayable, and we would have to wait and possibly not play games due to weather/field issues. We were playing at a complex that had four new fields, and four older fields right beside it. We were going to have to move to the “older” fields, but games would be condensed, shortened and possibly not played dependent upon anymore rain activity that might come. I half heartedly dispatched Jonathan Spargo and John Bradley to go commandeer a lonely-looking John Deere 3-wheel drag we kept walking past into the ballpark every day so we could make this field playable as we looked over the field conditions. Five minutes later, here comes Spargo driving down the sidewalk on that John Deere that he liberated with Bradley’s mischievous help. The dads and coaches take to the field to get it ready until the site director stops us, again reassuring our group that this field is done and unable to be used for play. We like to practice what we preach to our boys. We didn’t come down to Georgia to play half the games, and we aren’t going to sit around and make an excuse up why we shouldn’t do a little work. We figured….it can either be playable tonight, or tomorrow depending on weather. So, we spent forty-five minutes on that field, and got it about 95% ready to play as the sun slowly helped bake out some of the standing water off. It rained later that night, so we didn’t end up playing on it again. But – little boys have eyes and ears;  they saw their dads see a problem, take action, do a fix, work together and not complain. We probably did more for helping shape their character in those forty-five minutes than anything else we’ve done this month.  So, now we left the fields on Saturday 3-0, and ready for whatever gauntlet of games that awaited us on Sunday. Sidenote….later that night, the men of the team completely dominated the Bandit ladies in a bowling competition. The women showed strong out of the gate, but we channeled our curly headed, mustachioed bowling persona named “Rick” that lives in every Caucasian man, and bowled our hearts out….and we took the victory over the ladies.

After the men’s triumphant bowling victory, we had to play a lot of baseball to finish out the tournament strong and keep advancing. It was a double elimination tournament, so continuing to win every game was crucial. We had to play our games in the older/smaller ballparks on Sunday. With a 201 fence the whole way around, you would think we would blast 10-15 home runs in a three game stretch. But, the 10’ high fence, good opposing pitching, and very low and questionable strike zone helped keep those balls inside the fences. We did rattle the fences a whole lot, and you can’t be too upset with swings that produce double digit line shots that hit the fence in the air from your offense. With the opponent outfield doing the normal umbrella defense, and holding the line shots to singles….it meant base to base play was in order. If we were playing on 250 foot or bigger fields….boy would we have some fun!!! In overall Game four (and first on Sunday), we topped the Carolina Titans Blue 9-5. This is the team that is based out of Northeastern North Carolina. They have twenty active players listed on their roster, so I’m not sure which 10 players we saw in Savannah…but the players they had this weekend made up a good team, and they are well-coached. According to TravelBall247 they are ranked #3 in their Coastal NC region in NC, and #18 in NC coming into last weekend.

Game five was against one of the two MOST local teams…as they were based out of Pooler, Georgia…which was the tournament site of our 11u portion of this tournament. We played Line Drive 11u (GA) in our second game of the day, and fifth overall. This was a tough matchup, as the Line Drive 11u team was ranked pre-season #88 nationally by Perfect Game. We had a tense, action filled game with lots of big swings of momentum. Inning ending double plays, and hot shot line outs that were inches away from breaking the game open for our side happened a couple of times. We came away with a 4-1 win in this game too, and here again we would have loved to have had those line shots off the fence be on a bigger field. We saw a lot of great OF play this weekend, and this team was maybe the best. They were able to get to routine balls effortlessly, and hot shots were tracked down and gotten in quickly. We were impressed as a coaching staff, and it made us have to work harder at the plate. Eight or nine doubles works better than eight or nine singles in baseball. The short game times, and base to base play due to field size meant lower scoring than it would have been regularly, but we did enough to get the satisfying win.

That win over Line Drive 11u propelled us into the Championship game. The Carolina Titans came into that game with only one loss….which was earlier to the Bandits. This rematch game was against a top Twenty 11u team in NC, and if you know anything about sports you understand that it’s very hard to beat a good team twice….much less twice in the same day. So, we had our hands very full with a capable bunch that came out just as strong in game two as they did in game one. We were able to squeeze by the Carolina Titans Blue 4-3 which included late inning heroics by our team. We were the home team, and had last at bat which was crucial for this scene:

We got great pitching all weekend by guys that have not had a whole lot of innings on the mound this year, but I absolutely believe in what they can do on the mound as evidenced by their chances this weekend. We had good pitching the whole weekend from everyone who pitched. Bug Green, Zeke Pruitt and Walker Spargo came in and gave great efforts. We have other guys on the roster that have pitched in the past, and will continue to pitch when the time is right. Mason Wells, Brody Crawford and Hunter Hartness came in to prove once again that the stat sheet doesn’t lie about who can pitch. Those three had to come in during crucial portions of our games this weekend, and came up big stopping the offenses that were sending the ball out of the park against some of our more seasoned pitchers. These three all came in to pitch the majority of the Championship game, and locked down the Titans to set our offense up for a chance to finish the deal. Brody pitched a solid two innings, and then Mason came in to pitch another solid two. Hunter entered the game to pitch from being a sub during the final inning (fifth) for Mason….also taking his spot in the lineup for the last inning. Hunter pitched out of the last inning jam, and got our offense in the dugout ready to scratch our way toward victory.

Hunter, now substituted into the game was up first in the order with our team down one run in this last inning of play. Ray Charles could even see the pressure and anxiety on everyone's face watching or playing in this game...it was real. He had a nice long at bat and earned himself a walk. The strike zone for our group in all six games was a deceptive one. I think we averaged maybe two walks per game the whole weekend? So, with pressure on both sides….Hunter won that fight with the pitcher and got on base to get things started. Brody came up and looked at a ball while the runner advanced to second base on that ball that got away from the catcher. Brody then smoked a single just barely over the outreached second baseman’s head and outreached glove and into right center. Not knowing if the defender would make a play on the ball, and with zero outs, the runner had to hold tight at second base to make sure the hit got through….and then advanced to third once it was past the defender. If he hadn’t have hit the ball so hard, or in that particular spot – we could’ve easily scored here to tie the game. Most importantly – that swing got a late inning rally started that continued on. We were left with runners on the corners and no outs with Carsten Green coming to bat. The Titan coaches did the right thing, and intentionally walked him to load the bases and force easier outs at every base. Zeke Pruitt comes up to bat and faces an infield that’s slightly in a couple of steps in front of the bases and looking to field any hit ball and get the runner at home if possible. Hunter is on third, and by design not having too much of a lead in the event of a line drive to the P or 3B.  Zeke hits one as hard as physically possible right at the third baseman, and one false step is all it took to double off our runner at third. So, all that momentum…..suddenly lost in a cloud of bad luck. With the momentum swung securely in favor of the Titans, and down to our last out Aydan Bradley strolls up to the plate with Brody at second base and Bug at first base. Aydan absolutely rips a line shot to left field and Crawford motors around third to score. With the throw attempt late, Bug attentively advances to third and Aydan to second base. With extreme tension in the air amongst the fans, coaches and players- and with a talented pitcher on the mound- Aydan ate up the pressure and spit it out to left field with that one swing.

Now we had runners at second and third, and the ball game is tied. The Titans once again do the right thing, and intentionally walk Patrick Blee making a force out at each base. So, with two outs, bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth and final inning and with time expired on the game clock…Christopher Wurster strolls confidently into the box. The pitcher deals and gets a strike one call from the umpire. Second pitch is called a ball. On the third delivery of the at bat, Chris swings through a pitch, narrowly missing it and is now down in the count 1 ball, 2 strikes….and we have two outs. The air was as heavy with tension and pressure as it was with humidity on the fourth pitch of this late June Georgia summer at bat. The Titan ace came set, offered up his best pitch to win his team the game and WHACK! Wurster sends a fastball on the outside part of the plate screaming to the fence which scores Bug from third base and we win the game 4-3. Fireworks came early this summer for the Bandits and those boys that kept that inning alive will never forget the time that they got to play in that “bottom of the ninth” game so many boys replay in their back yards throughout childhood. In some ways, these boys are getting to live their dreams in the moment right now. There is no fluff, hype or misleading info. They put in the hard work, and actually go do the things that many pretend they have or could have done. Thank you to the families and supporters that made the trip down to Georgia with us. What a great group, what a great time, what a great ending.  

Jun 25, 2019 - Pooler tournament starts this Friday

*Update to the Update*

We have a three-day tournament upcoming this weekend, It looks like we are set to play at 3pm and 7pm on Friday, June 28th down in Pooler, GA. Like most of these tournaments, we will be unfamiliar with the teams that we are playing. That is exciting to us, and typically makes for good games.

In our opening game, we appear to be playing Chain Gang - Chambliss, an 11u team based out of Savannah. They have played Team 24 (Bailey), Ditch Chickens, Mission Vipers (Gold) and Charleston Revolution (Whittle) before - so we have some common opponents from our pasts. It should be a good matchup.

We will play game two at 7pm following the first game's conclusion. We are set to play Scoutz USA baseball team- out of Evans, Georgia. We don't see any common opponents here either, so we will be ready for anything. Our team will see plenty of Georgia-based teams in this tournament, and we will need to bring our best effort to compete. Please be at the ballfield at 1:45pm on Friday prepared to challenge these two teams, and have fun on the ballfield.

Jun 24, 2019 - Bandits visit the oldest city in Georgia

We will take our dog and pony show on the road this weekend, and compete in Savannah, GA at Top Gun's largest ever tournament in the state of Georgia to date. We hope to have a lot of fun, and will update everyone on any insider info we may get in the next 24 hours. The schedule should be out soon though (probably tonight), and we will know what our play times will be then.

We will want to be at the ballpark an hour and 15 minutes ahead of game time (we all know why) - and we hope the boys give a great effort while competing against these GA boys. Georgia is known for having great baseball, so we are glad to be a part of this event. This tournament was sought out and planned with the parents in mind as much as anything else- the scenary and history are phenomenal. So, I hope everyone enjoys their time down there - and we look to play good ball too. Go Bandits.

Jun 17, 2019 - Sympathy for the Devil. Bandits go 3-1

This past weekend, we made a jaunt up in age classification, and played in the 12u National division. We had a good time doing that, and got to see some new competition along the way which was satisfying. We did not win the tournament, and had a shortened Sunday day of play...so that was disappointing. There were no championships, gold medals, chains, or whatever else is given out to the winning teams. But, at least we got the second half of our Father's Day free and relaxed.

Day one of play saw us take on the Stewards of the Game - STORM team. We came out hot and scored four runs in the first inning, and then we had several miscues that cost us the chance to score some more in the middle innings. We had left a lot of opportunities on the field, and weathered a late two run inning by our opponent before eventually getting by with an 8-3 win.

Game two we hit on all cylinders, and played well in most phases of the game. We won that game 21-11, and earned the #3 seed in the Gold part of the National League tournament. So, we were set to play the #2 seed in the Gold on Sunday, and if we won that game we would face the winner of the #1 vs. #4 matchup.

On Sunday, we faced the Carolina Heat NC team. Before Saturday's first game, the umpires of those two games informed me that "we" (our team) was expected to run roughshod through the field. I politely disagreed, and informed him that we have a bunch of 11u players and you don't know if you will score 10 per inning, give up 10 per inning. Nevertheless, the calls in both the wins on Saturday were not favorable to us. Sunday's game was exceptionally bad. I am informing you now of this, because the standard protocol regarding play on the field is that I tell the kids (and you the parents) that we need to find a way to win no matter what, and it's our job to make a solution happen. I think that does not always go over well with you, and it is probably looked at as my being tough on our own kids unfairly. Well, I did fill out an umpire report card on that Sunday game, and told the truth to the organization - just so you know. No team, especially a team a year younger playing in an older division, needs those kind of odds stacked against them. Three games in a row with the one-sided calls against you like that will make a group reconsider ten years of consistent allegiance to an organization. Yes - the calls were ridiculous. I know several of you were behind the backstop and watching it. We won't make too big a fuss during the game, because that isn't what we want the kids taking away from that or any other game. It's good to get beaten sometimes;  it's good to learn how to try to bounce back, and do something extra to try and turn the tide that is against you. So, we focus on our mistakes and correcting them while at the field.

So, a team that we would beat ten out of ten times did somehow beat us....with the help of umpires and apparently organizational figures being in their ear, and we were left to play the mop up game versus the other losing team. The team that lost ended up being the #1 overall seed, and the last three innings we watched in that game, their fans and coaches had the same reactions our fans had during our game. So - the organization got the championship game between the two teams that were wanted in that spot, and we waited to play the other team. The other team, so disgusted with the umpiring in the game they lost, decided to not play in the game versus us though...so our day was done. I don't know if it counts as a forfeit or not, but I count it as a win because if a team chooses to walk away from the game - you definitely lose. It's hard to teach our kids any adjustments from the Sunday game;  we will continue to focus on creating something good happening - because there was plenty we could have done to seize control in small spots during the game. We had zero walks, and I believe no three balls counts for our offense the entire game. Being upset at the umpire during the game is pointless. Finding a way around the problem will continue to be what we do. Thanks for supporting us, and thanks to the group that put together the Saturday early Father's Day lunch. The weekend wasn't how we wanted to end up, but it was a good life lesson to be had. You can't always get what you want.

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