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Mar 14, 2018 - Bandits make a move on a state-wide ranking
The Travel Ball 24/7 site has a list where they rank travel ball baseball teams by age. They appear to be pretty dang good at it too, because most of the teams we've seen on these rankings are very good ballclubs. They take into account multiple organizations, but since so many teams play across those lines it seems to be a good measuring stick to use.
The initial rankings came out during the fall, and of course in football-crazed Belmont most of our boys were playing football. So, despite our strong showing last spring and summer, we still have a lot of work to do in order to catch up and move up the list. We started un-ranked, and have moved up a couple times since being recognized. There are a lot of Raleigh-heavy picks in there, so we don't see too many of those teams during the regular part of our year. But, we have seen a lot of the teams on the list though, and competed well against them in the past.
We know that spring and summer competition is the best time to play baseball because you see all the best during those months, so our work during that time will be a true indication of what we are....or aren't. We appreciate being recognized by this group - check out their site sometime; it's a lot of fun to read through it.
Here is a link, and info on what is shown:
The Belmont Bandits have gone 10-0 in 10u play this spring and sit at #13 in this weeks rankings
#1 Canes Baseball NC – Gilchrist and #2 SBA Canes – Marconi are locked in at the top of the rankings and these two have separated themselves from the pack in the 10u age group. They appear to be on a collision course this spring as they both will be frequenting the USSSA Super NIT circuit to try and secure a bid and points for the Demarini USSSA World Series this summer. The Carolina Thunder have been the big mover this spring with two wins this past weekend over then #3 Dirtbags Platinum that vaulted the Thunder from 16th to 5th. The knock on the Thunder has been that there competition hasn’t always been the greatest, but they proved this past weekend that they can play with anyone. Dirtbags Platinum, meanwhile, dropped from #3 to #8 with the losses. We still think they’ll be great this spring, but the two losses to the Thunder were a bit of a surprise. The Alamance Patriots have steadily climbed to #9 this spring and we hope some enhanced competition this spring will allow them to sort their position in the top 20. Dirtbags East dropped an early season game to the Carolina Pilots which was a bit of a surprise, but again this was an umpire training game, so it’s hard to know how much weight to place on it. We’ve dropped them from #6 to start the spring to #11 currently. The Belmont Bandits have been a pleasant surprise this spring as well, going 10-0 thus far in 10u play including impressive wins over the SC Jets and the East Coast Snipers (SC). They have gone from unranked to #13 in our top 20 currently. The Fuquay Varina Wildcats have dropped from #8 to #18 currently after sustaining a loss to Dirtbags East. Rock Solid Red has also made in appearance in our rankings at #18 after some nice performances thus far this spring. Other teams considered for top 20 spots included the Richmond Rockies, LKN Hurricanes, West Raleigh Blue, and GRIT – Koonin.
On Sunday, we had day two of our games to play. Top Gun was hosting an umpire's tournament for 10u on Saturday, and we certainly played in that one. On Sunday, we signed up to play in the 11u division...which is one year older group of players. When we were placed in the 11u Division ONE bracket, we didn't call and get it changed. We saw the brackets as early as the other teams, but we value learning about our weaknesses more than worrying about the W/L column. So, we had two division one 11u teams to face on Sunday, and we knew what we were getting into going in. The SC Jets 10u also played in the 11u tournament- against the division three teams- and did very well winning 13-1 and 5-4. We stuck with the schedule, and said "let's roll".
We faced the Beaufort County Bombers 11u team in game one. We lost this game 7-1, but the game was much closer than the score appears. The score was 2-1 after four innings complete, but one bad inning doomed our chances. Good teams always make your problem areas come to light, but we didn't help ourselves with silly dropped fly balls and other misplayed routine plays that we normally make all the time. I think the bigger field was a little bit of an issue, as we haven't tried to practice on the larger basepaths and mounds prior to this weekend. We were playing just to play, and we adjusted as best we could. Our pitching wasn't great in this game, and it wasn't due to the opponent hitting us. We had a little trouble throwing strikes consistently from the longer stretch, so we realized early on we were going to put people on base from the other team. Mason Wells was a bright spot from the mound, coming in with very little experience on the hill and shutting down their hitters in a little over an inning's worth of work.
The pitching we saw from the opposing teams on Sunday was solid all day long; those are two good teams we faced. But, the pitching wasn't better than what we saw the previous day against the 10u groups; we just didn't hit real well. I'm sure we didn't see any "aces" and that is fine. It was just obvious that we are used to hitting from 50 feet just yet, and probably would've benefited from seeing them from 46 feet. The extra four foot length on the mound had us pool cueing a lot of balls, and we didn't have very robust swings at the plate. That's not an excuse - we just didn't adjust to the new field dimensions on the fly very well at all and our coaches certainly aren't blaming our players. Good for the opposing team pitchers and defense though, because they did make most of the plays they should've made. We saw a very solid outfield that got to a couple of well hit gappers, and recorded outs on what may have been doubles to a lesser team. All in all the teams, fans and most of the coaches were very respectful except for that vagabond type coaching first base during this game. He took offense to my directly coaching one our players on a very routine play that we blew, and felt like he should chime in with passive aggressive comments toward our 10 year old. There must have been too much salt added into the pot at the soup kitchen Sunday morning? We were just glad their team would play a year younger team, and appreciated the opportunity to compete.
In baseball when the wheels come off, they fly off with purpose. We had one of those innings in this game. So, after four complete innings, the Beaufort County Bombers 11u lead 2-1. With time bearing down on us once again, we gave up five runs in the fifth inning to make the score 7-1. We had one more at bat before the time expired, and we were able to threaten a little bit late - but were not able to score in that last inning so the game was over. It was a good experience playing this team, and I wish their group good luck this year.
In game two of Sunday's doubleheader, we have the Junior Riverdogs 11u outfit to contend with. They are a legit Division One team, and definitely a step up in competition. This game was highlighted more due to their ability, than our unusual mistakes. We finally came around with our swings later in this game when we started getting a little used to the distance, and it showed. Even with seeing better pitching on the mound, we still came around and hit the ball much better late in this game. If the coaches ever want to do this again, maybe some of your parents remind them to practice a little bit for the field size we are about to play at. Not many people have ever accused us of being smart, so we learn tough lessons after taking a few haymakers.
So, we got to work in this game, and got out of a couple of jams early. The Riverdogs are a really good team, and made all the plays you would expect them to make and more. They robbed a couple of normal "would be" hits against regular teams, and they showed why they play in the division they play in. They racked up ten hits on us in this game, doubling what any other team got on us this weekend. They could swing it, field it, pitch and just play in general. Really enjoyed watching them play, and we hope to be at that level in about a year as a group.
We had moments of exciting baseball, as we put up one run in the top of the first. Unfortunately our bad inning occurred in the second inning, and we gave up 9 runs in that inning (yes 9). Part of it was this team was just really good, but plenty of it was us being a little shaken and not coming back strong quickly enough. We practice routine plays and a lot of scenarios, and just sorta came unglued at the wrong time (during a baseball game). We could never score more than one run in an inning, and in the bottom of the fourth the home team Riverdogs scored 3 to make the game be called (they went up 10 runs after four innings). A couple of bright spots for us were Landon King smoking a triple over an outfielder's head and to the fence. We had several team hits in this game, and many more hot hit balls that were just caught by really good fielders. Zeke Pruitt and Brody Crawford had a hit in this game. Blake Hartness and Patrick Blee hammered a double each into opposing gaps. So, as a team we came around with the bat somewhat....but it wasn't nearly enough to be able to beat a team like the one we faced in this second game.
So, on the day we were 0-2. On the weekend we were 2-2, but we had a fantastic time and saw a lot of great ball teams. We play this sport for competition, and we got all we wanted this weekend. We will work to get better, and keep refining all the little nuances that you learn as a ten year old baseball player.
Mar 12, 2018 - Game #2 on Saturday was a thrill ride from start to finish
After the roller coaster, nail-biting action in game one, we had to face another great Division one 10u team immediately after that game we had just played. Next up for the Bandits, we had to see the SC Jets 10u, a team who has won over 30 games last spring and summer...and that showed in their play.
This contest featured some more early miscues by our team that lead to being down 3-0. Our pitching was good enough to get by, and the fielding was made extra tough by the Wrigley Field meets AT&T Park in San Franciso outfield conditions. Landon King went one inning, striking out three early on. Zeke Pruitt threw a solid two innings, striking out three and Patrick Blee also notched a sturdy inning with two strikeous. This game would be decided with base running and timely hitting though.
The best hitter in this game was Landon King. He was 2 for 2 and got on base three times total, as he also drew a free base by HBP. We had a little controversy after the opposing team scored three quick runs on us in the top of the first. There was a dispute that was carried over from a previous game with the opposing team's coaches and umpires that had nothing to do with us, and it lead to a fifteen minute interlude. Our coaches made sure that the interruption in play did not affect this one hour fifteen minute timeclock, and were assured it did not affect it. That is why you saw the other team line up on the first base line ready to be done with the game after about 45 minutes of actual play; we weren't given any help - but assured we didn't get to play 1/4 of a game since they had a dispute to settle. The delay was momentum killing enough that we needed to make something happen pretty quickly. We did just that in the bottom of the second when Aydan Bradley singled a line drive to center field. Bradley stole second, and a batter grounded out advancing the runner to third base. Patrick Blee comes up to bat, and lays down a perfect bunt with Bradley just beating the high and missed tag. We had cut the score to 3-1 and felt a little better about the situation. Blee's bunt was at first base now, and stole second base. Blake Hartness walked to give us two base runners. We advance both runners around the bases, including when Blee makes it home on a wild pitch, and allowing Hartness to arrive at third. Christopher Wurster slugs a deep fly to right field, awhich allowed Hartness to tag up perfectly and plate the tying run. We end the inning, able to tie up the game and snag a little more momentum back.
The Jets hammer a couple of hard ground balls, and a couple more that were seeing-eye singles and are in business again. They end up going back up 7-3 after this half inning. Sensing our need for a big play, Landon King came up huge with 1 out in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, he slugged an inside the park home run on a line drive that rolled toward the long fence, very far away. That was the spark our team needed, and we were hoping it would become a raging fire soon. It was about as pretty a HR as you could ever see. Zeke Pruitt then followed up with a hard ground ball single to RF, Bug Green walked and they advanced around the bases on a passed ball. Patrick Blee walks to load the bases, and then Walker Spargo draws a walk. With the bases loaded, Hartness comes up and hits a one hop ground ball that the pitcher snares to everyone's amazement and they get out of the inning. That pitcher may be some kind of secret super hero that accidentally showed a ridiculous relfex talent...because 99 times out of 100 that ball goes through the infield for a clean hit. Great play by them, and the Jets cooled our jets with that huge play. So, we missed our chance, and left the inning still losing 7-5.
We were able to hold the Jets in the top of the fourth, and we entered the bottom of the fouth inning with the time expiration looming. We could go into this inning, and get a quick 1,2,3 out and the game would be over right around the clock reaching "zero"...or we could hit a while and not make that matter at all. Chris Wurster lead us off the right way, drawing a walk. He stole second base, and began to look like the loneliest kid in the world after watching our next two hitters record outs. The horizon was bleak....but Bandits never say die. King comes up to bat, and is hit by the pitch. Some worried that it was intentional due to his previous explolits at the plate, but I'm sure their coach and pitcher weren't trying to put the tying runner on base. Wurster and King advance on a double steal, as Zeke Pruitt did his job and allowed a strike to be called in order to move the runners. So with runners on second and third, Pruitt grounds a ball to the third baseman. King does as much as he can to distract the third baseman, and Wurster is crossing the plate with ease during this time. Wurster's run won't matter if the out can be recorded at first base though, and with King bearing down on third and the fielder moving to his left, he double clutches on the throw, and then throws low and the first baseman isn't able to come up with the ball. Now that lonely runner that was once at second base has become a run, and the new loneliest looking thing in the stadium is that baseball lying on the ground beside first base. We have runners on the corners, two outs and Carsten Green coming up.
Remember earlier when I said that King's HR was about as pretty a thing as you could imagine? Well, this is that OTHER time when one might be prettier. With a 1-2 count, Bug slams a deep fly ball into the right center gap. It rolls all the way to the fence scoring King, the tying run and Pruitt the go ahead and possibly winning run. With the time limit about at it's expiration, Bug wheels around and finishes off his inside the park HOME RUN to make it 9-7. We won't have time to start another inning, we are the home team.....BALL GAME!!!! Bandits win 9-7 against a very scrappy team.
It was a great scene on Saturday, coming from behind in two games and finding a road to victory. We saw great teams that were expertly coached and competed against some of the best in the Carolinas. This day and both games at such a gorgeous venue will not be something forgotten by these boys and those others in attendance. I'm sure we'll see these teams in the future. It was an honor to compete in such a high level scene and against true division one 10u teams that gave it everything they had. Proud of our boys and supporters who flocked to our games this weekend. Man oh man - it doesn't get much better than this in this sport.
Mar 11, 2018 - It was the best of times, it was the......best of times
Smiles all around. If you weren't able to be down here to see the games at the inaugural day of baseball at the Shipyard, you should feel like you missed out on something. A lot of great ball played here today, but more important than that to us - the Bandits were involved in two great ballgames. I'm not sure how many of our fans weren't able to be there - but I know how many were in attendance to root for our team. Thank you so much for the support and attendance to Saturday's games. It felt great being in that unbelievable stadium with that kind of cheering section behind you. I'm sure Vickery's was happy to see our 50 person crew roll in strong after the day's games; we should make that our new spot when we come down here because our post-games meal was almost as fun as the games were.
First up on the day was the East Coast Snipers. They were a strong 17-6 last year in Top Gun, and obviously one of the stronger teams in the Carolinas at 10u. They are a Division 1, 10u team and they proved that today. They had an unbelievable pitcher (Parker) that started the game, and he mowed us down regularly for about three innings. Chris Wurster got the only hit off him during that time- a six hole rope that rang the dinner bell notifying the other Bandits that we were timing him now. Lucky for us, he ran out of his innings and they went to another pitcher. All their pitchers were extremely good, as well as their defense, baserunning and offense. It was just a really solidly played baseball game, and it came down to a couple tricks and plays.
Landon King started on the hill for the Bandits. In the first, we had some trouble as a couple of Snipers reached base on walks. King steadied himself and was able to get out of the inning with a strikeout, a groundout to first base, and then striking out a player for out number three. The pitching was strong for both teams, as the Snipers team struck out eight Bandits and our team struck out twelve of their players. We had two misplays in right field by two different players, which should have been outs. Typically, those plays are outs 90% of the time for us and those players in particular, but the swirling winds off the river played havoc on our judgement for those balls that had a good bit of air under them. Luckily, our pitchers did a masterful job of throwing a lot of strikes and getting out of jams when they had to. Blake Hartness came into this game for us, and went four strong innings. On one of the misplays, our outfielder came in on a ball well hit, and the ball got behind him. We were playing on a regulation college sized field, so that ball rolled a good 325 feet. The play allowed their runner to get to third base, and set up the first run in the game to plate when Parker singles in a ball up the middle. The Snipers kept the pressure on and continued to threaten, until Hartness struck a player out for the third out, and allowed our stands and dugout to do a collective sigh of relief together. On this day in particular, Bug Green did a great job of catching, and kept a lot of pitches alive that might have otherwise gone another direction. He has worked hard on what we ask him to do, and we are proud of the unique ability he has shown behind the plate.
During the top of the third, Wurster gets his single. He steals second and third base, and almost single handily has threatened to tie this game for us. We are unable to capitalize though, and leave him stranded on third base. Now we're back on defense, and we see the bases get filled up a couple of more times in the fourth and fifth inning, only to have Blake find a way to get out of the inning from the hill. Offensively, we didn't do much this game but when it counted our boys made the plays they had to make. Losing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, and with the impending hour and fifteen minute time limit looming (umpire training rules), Brody Crawford leads off the inning with a walk. Crawford steals second base. He advances to third on a passed ball. Landon King is up to bat and singles a rocket shot to the center fielder scoring Crawford. We've tied the game 1-1, and King is at first base as the go ahead run. King steals second base with Zeke Pruitt up. Pruitt grounds out sharply to first base, advancing King to third base. Carsten Green is up, and draws a walk. During his at bat though, a wild pitch allows King to score the go ahead run. A pinch runner, Pruitt, runs for the catcher and steals second base while Aydan Bradley is up to bat. Bradley grounds out to SS, and on a great play by the Snipers they also cut down the runner trying to advance from 2nd to 3rd on the out made at 1B. The Snipers are a really solid team, and were impressive at every turn.
In the last inning, Hartness shuts the Snipers down by getting a pop out to second base and then a strike out for out number two. The last out was a scarier affair. The Snipers have a bunch of players who can hit. Their last swing versus us was the hardest hit ball all day, and guess who hit it? You guessed it...this Parker. They maybe should go ahead and sign him up to play for the Gamecocks in the next year or so - at this point I think his ability is about where it needs to be to compete at that level. Well, Parker - the East Coast Sniper resident stud smokes the ball to center, and Brody attacks it and snags a line drive just above head level for the third and decisive out. If that ball were to get over his head, on this turf, it would've rolled 350 and it would have tied the game for sure. Big play in CF by Brody, and great job of navigating the minefield with so many Snipers locked in by Hartness. On the day, Blake Hartness had ten strikeouts, only one walk and won this game for us. His hard work this winter has been noted previously, but it serves as a good reminder to our other players that there is always someone working harder to be better than you. Blake's work has already paid off this year, and anything else at this point is house money. The Bandits squeak out a 2-1 victory and improve to 9-0 on the season. The Snipers are one of the better teams we've ever played against, and it was an honor to play against such a well taught, and talented team. What a first day of ball in the books for the Bandits. It was a typical emotional roller coaster game of ours, but man was it fun. Next up, we had the SC Jets - another D1 team out of South Carolina.
Mar 7, 2018 - All Aboard....
The Belmont Bandits crew is very excited to be part of the opening ceremonies at the brand new Shipyard Park down in Charleston this weekend. It is hard to imagine that a set of ballfields could be any nicer or more beautiful than this setup they have created down in South Carolina. I know our fans and parents are excited about making the trip. We hope to play some good baseball while down there, and we KNOW there will be excellent teams signed up and ready for competition.
Teams from South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and beyond will be involved and that little stretch of states will provide you with as good 10u baseball talent as you will find. We are excited to see the great players and teams, and try our hand at competing against them. We are a small town team with 100% Belmont boys; it is unlikely we will see many other teams there with a 2 mile x 2 mile radius of "talent" that makes up their team like ours is built. We have not moved anyone into town or recruited other team's players. It could be a tough weekend; we are playing all D-1 teams on Saturday, and also playing D-1 "11u" teams on Sunday. It's always good to see what next level you are aspiring to get near. Also, an hour and fifteen minute time limit is always tough because it's not a full game, so we will have to make some adjustments on the fly to the time, the field size and the intense competition we run into all weekend long. We hope our guys get better and understand this wonderful game provides humility much like life does when you go seek out competition against the best.
It's an honor to see these other organizations, and be a part of this historic weekend in such a historic city. I would guess this ballpark will be a destinational mecca for travel ball teams around the country in the near future. Can't wait to make these memories. Go Bandits!
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