15U team ends state tourney run

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The West Alabama 15U all-stars finished their state tournament run in Wetumpka Tuesday with a 3-0 loss to Sylacauga in the single-elimination round of the bracket.

“We drew Sylacauga and they put a kid on the mound who just pitched a good game, beat us 3-0,” West Alabama head coach Chris Stewart said. “We tip our hats to Sylacauga.”

The West Alabama team opened its tournament play Saturday with a 9-8 win over host team Wetumpka.

“We ended up having to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh to win that,” Stewart said of a late rally that ignited the team’s pool play efforts with a win.

In the second game of the day Saturday, Stewart’s squad started off in the hole.

“We gave up four runs in the first inning,” Stewart said of the contest against Sims. The WA team bounced back quickly, outpacing Sims 22-9 to win the game.

“We played pretty good ball,” Stewart said of the group’s overall play.

West Alabama’s toughest test came Sunday morning when it lost to Etowah County 7-0.

“We just didn’t show up,” Stewart said of the shutout loss. “We told the boys they needed to be up from the very beginning to the end.”

His team answered the call Monday when it dropped Opp 10-0 to punch its ticked to Tuesday’s championship round.

“We threw Chase (Cameron) against Opp and he was dominant,” Stewart said. “He pitched six innings of scoreless ball. (Monday) we played West Alabama baseball.”

Cameron’s effort and the offensive support of his teammates helped the group to reach the coveted semi-final round.

“Us and Etowah advanced (out of our pool) to the championship round based on runs allowed. We were the No. 2 seed out of our pool,” Stewart said. “I really feel like our pool was the better pool, the tougher pool.”

The West Alabama team scored a combined 41 runs in its three wins of the tournament, but failed to remove the goose egg on the scoreboard in either of its two losses.

“The bottom line is that we didn’t hit the baseball. When the top of the order hits, good things happen,” Stewart said.

The loss not only ended the team’s tournament run, but it also brought to a close the boys’ tenure as player in the Demopolis Youth Baseball League.

“There’s no doubt that this is a talented group. I firmly believe there are great things in store for them. Summer ball has been good to them. They’ve had a lot of success,” Stewart said of one of the most accomplished groups to come through Demopolis baseball. “As fathers, we’ve done all we can do. It’s up to (Demopolis High School head baseball coach Ben) Ramer and (assistant coach James) Moody and (Marengo Academy head baseball coach Jonathan) Lindsey to take them and teach them from here.”

Stewart is confident the boys from the West Alabama team will find continued success as they move forward in high school baseball.

“I think there will be a state championship ahead of them, whether it is at Demopolis or down in Marengo,” Stewart said.

While the team’s on-field success has been marked, the genuine difficulty may be evaluating what the group has meant to the Demopolis Youth Baseball League during its tenure within the organization.

“They’ve set a standard,” Stewart said. “There are several talented groups (in the DYBL), whether it is the 13-year-olds, 12-year-olds or 11-year-olds. To me, this group of 15-year-olds have kind of paved the way.”

The group’s run culminates a summer ball season in which the players passed up an opportunity at playing American Legion ball in order to make one final run together. In doing so, it also afforded the young men the opportunity to hone their leadership skills and mentor many of their younger counterparts.

“I look at the way our 15-year-olds helped in the league this year,” Stewart said. “I think it pays dividends. I can’t say enough about theses guys and the way they stayed in the league and helped all the younger guys.”

Throughout their time in the Babe Ruth regular season and eventual all-star play at the state level, Stewart said the team has been consistent in the way it has conducted its business.

“I’m just really proud of them,” Stewart said. “We start games and we end games with prayer. The Lord has been good to this team. He blessed us and we had a good run.”