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Demopolis hosts 14U all-star tourney

DEMOPOLIS —Members of the 10 teams and coaching staffs comprising the field of this weekend’s long-awaited state tournament will gather tonight at Fairhaven Baptist Church to enjoy the event’s kickoff banquet in a final exchange of pleasantries before taking the field Saturday.

The tournament begins its pool play round Saturday morning. During that round, each of the squads will play a series of four games over three days against the other four teams in its respective pool.

The pools, named after the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers, each consist of five teams. When pool play concludes Monday, the top two squads from each group will advance to a single-elimination round Tuesday to determine the state champion.

The Black Warrior pool includes District 12 representative Satsuma, District 9 champion Tallassee, District 10’s Central Alabama, District 3 champ Sylacauga and District 7 team Brewton. The Tombigbee pool features District 4’s top team, Etowah County, District 8’s Opp, host team West Alabama, District 11 champion Cottage Hill and District 2 representative Huntsville East.

According to District 10 commissioner Rob Pearson, the pools were decided upon months ago.

“We did that back in February and it was random selection,” Pearson said. “There was nothing scientific about it.”

District 10 is the only region in the tournament with two representatives. By virtue of being the host team, West Alabama, comprised of players from Demopolis and Linden, received an automatic bid into the tournament. With the host team receiving an automatic bid, District 10 was allowed to advance its representative, Central Alabama, to the state level.

“Every other team had to win its way here,” Pearson said.

Without the luxury of experience gained in district tournament play, the West Alabama and Central Alabama squads have each participated in a series of practice games in an effort to develop team chemistry and be prepared for the rigors of tournament play.

While it is difficult to project favorites at such an event, a handful of squads are preceded in the City of the People by their reputations.

Satsuma won the 13U state championship, while Etowah County’s younger counterparts from Coosa nearly swept the younger Cal Ripken age divisions in last weekend’s state tournaments.

Cottage Hill, from of the Mobile area, carries with it the rich legacy of strong play out of customary to its region.

“It’ll be as good of baseball as you’ll see at this age group,” Pearson said. “You’ll see a lot of future college baseball players. Obviously you like to see good baseball played at a high level.”

Despite the depth of the field, Pearson and others familiar with the team expressed their confidence in the West Alabama squads ability.

“We really believe this is one of our better age groups in West Alabama,” Pearson said. “It’s very good baseball. But I think our guys can compete with them.”

One reason for the optimism surrounding the West Alabama 14U team is the success its core group had two seasons ago at the 12-year-old level. Most familiar with the squad report being confident the team can draw from its tournament experience and improve upon the success it has had over the past two seasons.

Regardless of how the host team performs during the event, the popular perception surrounding the tournament seems to be that it will go down as a victory for Demopolis.

The city stands to benefit from a considerable positive economic impact by hosting an event Pearson believes would be impossible without the efforts of local volunteers.

“There are a lot of people in the community that have done a lot already to make this tournament a success,” Pearson said.