• 64°

15-year-old All-Stars drop two in Gadsden

GADSDEN–The West Alabama 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars didn’t quite have the weekend they were hoping for at the state tournament in Gadsden. Rain-outs, poor field conditions, and a pair of narrow defeats–5-3 to Monrovia and 9-6 to Smiths Station in extra innings–meant more frustration than expected.

But despite the problems, head coach Bud Phillips says he’s proud of the way his team performed and handled the adversity.

“We were all pleased with the way the kids played,” he says. “I wasn’t mad or disappointed or anything. They played well and we had a good time.”

West Alabama was especially sharp in their second game, an elimination contest against a very good Smiths Station team that had lost their previous game 2-1 despite the Smiths Station pitcher having thrown a no-hitter. Phillips said that after watching their opponent’s earlier performance, the team was “skeptical” at first of their chance for a win.

“But then Scott [Cannon] came in and started shutting them down, and our bats came alive. They made a few things happen,” Phillips says,

“and they brought themselves up. They weren’t intimidated.”

The result was a well-played back-and-forth game in which West Alabama opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Lane Phillips drew a walk and scored on a Joseph Reed RBI single. Smiths Station responded with a three-run second inning to go up by two, but West Alabama cut it to one when Scott Cannon doubled and scored on a Drew Tucker ground-out to make it 3-2 after two.

West Alabama then re-took the lead with a three-run inning of their own. Phillips led off the bottom of the third with a walk before Reed, Palmer O’Neal, and Cannon connected for back-to-back-to-back doubles. Phillips, Reed, and O’Neal scored for a 5-3 edge.

Smith Station scored two in fifth to tie the game at 5, but West Alabama went up again in the sixth thanks to savvy base-running by Reed. After singling and advancing to second, Reed got the call from Phillips to take a large lead off of second in an effort to draw a pick off throw from the catcher. Reed sprinted for third as soon as the throw was made, and when the errant toss went into centerfield Reed came around to give West Alabama the 6-5 lead with only an inning left.

Unfortunately for West Alabama, they could not keep the lead and Smiths Station forced the game into an extra eighth inning tied at 6. Smiths Station scored three in their half of the eighth and kept West Alabama off the board to win 9-6 and eliminate West Alabama from the tournament. Phillips, however, had nothing but praise for his team’s effort.

“We had good pitching and good defense both games, but this time we hit the ball,” he said. “We were able to run a little better too, since the field was dryer.”

Phillips admits that the wet field conditions affected his team’s play in their first game, a 5-3 loss to Monrovia of Huntsville. The team had game-planned to use the bunt to get players on base and then be aggressive on the basepaths, but the wet grass and sand-covered baselines meant running was difficult and the bunting strategy had to be discarded.

“We pitched good, our D was good. The bats just went cold,” Phillips says. “We got men on base. We just didn’t bring enough of them in.”

Despite the difficulties, West Alabama entered the late innings with a chance to win the game. After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the second, O’Neal and Cannon scored on back-to-back Walter Hudgens and Rob Rorie singles to trim the lead to 3-2 entering the third. But West Alabama would not score again until the seventh, when John Mackey singled and scored on a Jason Fondren double. That cut Monrovia’s lead to 5-3, but West Alabama could not come up with the other two runs and slipped into the loser’s bracket.

Lane Phillips pitched 6 and 1/3 innings against Monrovia while Scott Cannon got the final two outs of the seventh. Reed, Cannon, and Fondren shared pitching duties against Smiths Station.

West Alabama’s 15-year-old All-Stars are Lane Phillips, Walter Hudgens, Drew Tucker, Joseph Reed, Rob Rorie, Jason Fondren, Scott Cannon, Mark Geiger, Matthew McGilberry, Palmer O’Neal, and John Mackey. They are coached by Bud Phillips, Kip Yelverton, Mike Owen, and Jim Hudgens.