15-year old All-Stars gear up for state tourney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2005

When the Demopolis 15-year-old All-Star team takes the field this Thursday in the state tournament in Gadsden, there will be something very different about them from their opponents. Namely, it’ll be the first time Demopolis will have actually taken the field.

Because few programs in the area can field an All-Star team of 15-year olds, Demopolis’s will play in the state tourney without having to play in an Area or District tourney. Head coach Bud Phillips says there’s both some negatives and some positives to the situation.

“One advantage is that we’re well-rested. Some of these other teams will be tired. They’ve played so many games already to get there,” he says. “[But] it’s bad that we didn’t get to play as a team…the whole key, and I told them this, is to come together as a team.”

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In the interest of giving the team some sense of cohesion, Phillips and his coaching staff–Kip Yelverton, Mike O’Neal, and Jim Hudgens–arranged for the team to have a practice game against a 15-year-old squad from Meridian last Saturday. Phillips says that while the team performed well, the team will need to perform better as a unit if it wants to emerge with a title in Gadsden.

“I saw a lot of good things Saturday,” he says, “but the thing I saw that was bad was that we weren’t playing as a team. But they’ve played all summer long [in the West AL Babe Ruth League] and I’ve had most of these guys on my teams before. If we can get by that first game, we’ll pull together and we should be all right. We’ll have just as good a chance as anyone else.”

The team’s biggest strength, Phillips says, lies in its deep and experienced pitching staff. Players like Jason Fondren, Rob Rorie, Joseph Reed, John Mackey, Lane Phillips, and Scott Cannon each served as an ace starter for their respective teams in the Babe Ruth League.

“7 of our 9 are starters are pitchers,” Phillips says. “We should be OK on our pitching.”

Despite the experience on the mound, it was the team’s performance at the plate that was more impressive in Meridian, Phillips says, as he brought in a new pitcher for Demopolis each inning. Phillips says he didn’t care to keep score of the game.

“I didn’t care if we won,” he says. “Their program won a World Series a few years back. It’s just a good experience, playing that caliber of team.”

For better or worse, that’ll be the last experience Demopolis’s 15-year olds get before having to show whether it has indeed been for better, or for worse.

Demopolis’s 15-year-old All-Stars are Lane Phillips, Walter Hudgens, and Drew Tucker of Greene County Steam Plant; Joseph Reed and Rob Rorie of Community Bank; Jason Fondren, Scott Cannon, and Mark Geiger of New Era Cap Co.; and Matthew McGilberry, Palmer O’Neal, and John Mackey of Parr’s Chevron. They are coached by Bud Phillips, Kip Yelverton, Mike Owen, and Jim Hudgens.