Belmont Bandits 9U baseball team
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Cool weather doesn't deter ambition
Mar. 12, 2017
What a great Saturday we had on 3/11. We played in a one-day tournament up in Mooresville at Mazeppa Park. There are more teams now coming out of hibernation, which makes the games even more fun. Instead of the usual two-day stretch, the impending weather in our area ensured the tourny would be completed in a one day format, which was perfect. There were a lot of good teams in this tournament, and we were impressed with each group we saw play this weekend.
We played three games on Saturday. We had a regular schedule of two, and if you seeded high enough you were able to make the championship rounds. There were enough teams to have the Gold and Silver brackets (top 4 seeds), and we made it to the championship Gold bracket at the #1 seed based off of our two earlier wins in the day. I feel obliged to tell you about it, so it goes a little something like this here....
Game 1 we were slated to play the Carolina Astros out of Stanley. They have a real good program, and we have scrimmaged against their 10u group earlier in the year. That group is really good, and their 9u team is working to get to that point as well. The Astros played in the fall and are becoming a seasoned group on the field, and it shows. Always eager to swing at the plate, they play how you like to see teams compete: with 100% effort and aggression. We did end up winning this game 16-1, but they played us tough the whole game. The Astros battled at the plate and got more hits against us than any other one team did on Saturday. We had a pretty good day on the hill, in the field and at the plate though so that is why we were on the winning side of things this game.
Defensively, Patrick Blee pitched a solid game going three innings pitched with 7 strikeouts. He gave up 1 run, but maybe most of all was that he had no walks allowed. Blee continues to work at pitching this spring, but a lot of his success can be traced to the work he put in before Christmas and in early 2017 working on being ready to pitch. Blee also lead our team offensively going 3-3 with 1B, 2B, and 3B while scoring 3 runs. Brody Crawford wasn't far behind going 2-3 with two 2Bs and scoring 2 runs. Blake Hartness also got back into the action after being off for about a week and went 2-2 with two 2Bs and 2 runs scored. Chris Wurster notched his first triple of the year, as did Luke Lassiter. Zeke Pruitt had a double and scored 2 runs. Walker Spargo had a particularly memorable play when he hit a middling grounder that was fielded and thrown away at first base. He made the throw be rushed due to his hustle, and then his speed got him to third while another throw went errant. So, his aggressiveness on the basepaths allowed one of his lesser hit balls to turn into a scoring play. It never gets old seeing his hustle. We have a lot of guys on the team that play that way, and we like it.
Game 2 was against Elite Baseball. Another good program with fine coaching, so we knew we had to get lucky early to make sure we had a good chance to be in control of this game. Our offense was working early, and allowed us to pitch a few guys and get some work in the field making put outs. We won this game 17-2 and had a lot of offensive leaders. Our pitching was pretty solid for the most part, and we saw three pitchers pitch one inning each in this contest. Blake Hartness started and allowed only 1 hit and 1 run while striking out 3. Zeke Pruitt had another solid outing and allowed 1 hit and recorded 2 strikeouts. Brody Crawford came in to finish it up and allowed a hit and notched a strikeout. Defense in this game was really good early, and a little shaky at the end. We are working on staying focused and closing ballgames out a little better.
Our offense was pretty good in this game. Brody Crawford lead with a 2-2 effort. He had a 2B and a 3B to go along with a BB and 3 runs scored. The triple, he insists, was a Home Run, since he claims he made an aggressive move at third, drew a throw home, and that got away...allowing him to score. Unfortunately the baseball scoring rules don't agree with him, but you can't blame him for trying. He did run the bases exceptionally well though, and was a big factor in our two wins today. Zeke Pruitt went 2-2 with a 2B and 3B, as well as getting a BB and scoring 3 runs. Here again, getting on base, and making moves helped gain momentum for our offense, and it was hard to stop once it snowballed. Patrick Blee went 2-3 (2B, 3B) and scored 2 runs. Bug Green went 2-3 (1B, 2B) and scored 2 runs. The best part about our offense is that everyone contributed something during this game. Even if it was a guy getting walked or getting on base due to an error, we had a lot of good baserunning and pressured the defense.
Overall, the first two games on the day went very well. We won two games out of two played, and scored 33 runs and gave up 3. The coaches were happy with the results, but more happy about how the group played. The days are long when you have to play three games, and our team was happy to make it to the Gold Championship game to face a bear of an opponent: Havoc.
The Havoc are out of Mooresville, which I guess is the capital of travel baseball in NC. There are more travel teams in and around Mooresville right now this year than there have ever been in the total history of all Belmont travel teams combined. They have a lot to choose from, have a lot of facilities and parks to practice and play at and it shows. They really know what they're doing, and the Havoc in particular have selected some really good ball players to compete with. Hats off to their players and coaches. They are extremely good. They don't make many mistakes, and capitalize on the ones made by the opponent, which makes for a good ball team. We just have a bunch of small town boys trying to play against the big boys.
We ended up losing this Gold Championship game 2-0 in our third game of the day this Saturday. Offensively we didn't do much at all. Bug Green and Zeke Pruitt both didn't strikeout any this game, which is a feat unto itself. Their starting pitcher and closer were both about as good as you can ask to be as a 9u pitcher. We missed on a couple of chances with Luke Lassiter and Brody Crawford narrowly missing hard hit doubles down the line, but alas they were both foul. I had a thought during the game about bribing their pitcher with candy and cash to ease up a little on us, and give us a chance. We never could catch lightning in that bottle for just one inning to even up the score. It's hard to score runs if you can't get on base. Defensively we handed the ball to our ace, Landon King and asked him to face the biggest bully on the block. He pitched his heart out, and just came up short. The story of the game was the beginning of it. Their first at bat, in the top of the first the Havoc scored 2 runs off a walk, a couple of errors and a defensive misplay. Those miscues proved costly, because giving this team extra outs is akin to a loss for our team. Landon ended up with 5 strikeouts in the first inning, three of which were converted as actual outs eventually getting us out of the inning. For the game King pitched six innings, allowed only 2 runs (vs. a great hitting ball team) and had 11 strikeouts. He did about all he could from the rubber, and finished out a quick game. It didn't take very long to play six innings because the baseball was pretty solid on both sides of the field. The Havoc did a great job fielding the few balls we did manage to put into play. They won this game 2-0.
The boys weren't happy being the second best team at the tournament, but it sure does give them something to strive for in the future. They see there is always a bigger, better opponent and need to keep working hard to try to make incremental gains when possible. Most of them play 3 or 4 sports and don't specialize in just one thing, so that well-rounded drive to excel and realization of never being the absolute best in every sport every time out will hopefully keep their fire inside lit. I did love seeing one picture the moms had on facebook: Brody is holding the plaque and is centered in the picture, and a couple other boys faces match his semi-disgust and unfulfillment. I think that's a good thing - they know we didn't finish the way we wanted, and they expect to do better next time. Ambition in sports is the key to a lot, and these guys are competitors if nothing else.
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