Demopolis USSSA team wins Tuscaloosa tourney

Published 12:39 pm Friday, May 21, 2010

Last weekend, the Demopolis Tigers 12U AA USSSA baseball team won the USSSA Alabama/Mississippi Border Battle in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers have reached the finals in two previous tournaments this season but were defeated both times.

“I guess the third time is a charm,” said head coach Brian Sellers.

The Tigers dominated their first three opponents, outscoring them 24-8 en route to the championship game against The Hale County Wildcats. The Tigers were also recognized as the Best Scoring Team, and the Best Defensive Team.

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Demopolis opened pool play against the Rainesville Blues and earned a 9-2 victory. The Tigers got off to a shaky start after walking the first three batters. With the bases loaded, the Tigers committed their only error of the game, allowing two runs to score. Adam Sellers picked off a runner at first and then struck out the next two batters to get out of the frame. After the first inning only three Blues players would reach first base.

Luke Yelverton was the middle releiver and R.J. Cox the closer. In two inings of work, Yelverton recorded three strikeouts, no walks, and allowed three hits while Cox recorded two strikeouts, no walks and no hits during his two innings on the mound.

Sellers led the team offensively, going 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, but it was Will Webb who came up with the big hit in the first inning. With the bases loaded, Webb hit a line drive into the gap in left center that earned him a stand-up triple and three RBIs. The Tigers would then cruise to a 9-2 victory.

The Tigers faced the Montevallo Scrappers in the second game of their double-header. The two teams have met three times previously in the season with Demopolis holding a 2-1 advantage in the series.

Yelverton got the start for the Tigers and retired the Scrappers in order. The top of the order wasted no time in plating three runs in the first inning, adding four more in the third as the Tigers played nearly flawless defense.

“The game was closer than the score indicated,” remarked Sellers. “In the second, third and fifth innings, the Scrappers left runners stranded in scoring position but we came up with big plays defensively to shut them down.We executed our first and third defense in the second inning to get the lead runner out at third and made double plays to stop the other scoring threats. All of our pitchers did a great job pitching, but they also helped themselves out by making a lot of defensive plays, and picking off base runners.”

Cox returned to the mound as the middle reliever and Jacob Rodrigues closed the game for the Tigers, recording three strikeouts, one walk and one hit as the Tigers went on to down the Scrappers 7-3. That performance earned the Tigers a No. 1 seed and a bye going into single-elimanation play on Sunday.

The Montevallo Scrappers eliminated the Cleburne Generals 14-3 to earn another shot at the Tigers in the second round. Able to conserve their pitching against an outmanned Generals squad, the Scrappers saved their best hurlers for the Tigers, but any visions the Scrappers had of advancing to the championship round were quickly dispelled in the first inning as the Tigers put on a small ball clinic that confused the defense and frustrated the pitching. The Tigers plated four runs against two pitchers in the first inning, three of the scores coming off bunts.†The fields had been under water the night before so we were playing in sloppy conditions,” said Sellers. “It just made sense to put the ball in play any way we could and force the defense to maneuver on a slippery field to catch and throw a wet ball.” The strategy worked as Demopolis defeated Montevallo for the second time 8-3.

In the other bracket the Rainsville Blues defeated the Tuscaloosa Trojans 7-5 to advance to the semi-finals against No. 2 seed Hale County, before going down 3-0 to the Wildcats. That victory put Hale County in the finals against Demopolis. Both teams had to battle the elements and rain delays, but the Tigers would go on to win 1-0 after the game was called due to lightning.

R.J. “Tug” Cox was named tournament MVP. The 11-year-old Cox was 6-for-8 at the plate with four singles, a double, a triple and five RBIs. In six innings of work from the mound, Cox recorded six strikeouts, issued three walks and gave up one run on three hits. Defensively, he made four assisted plays and five unassisted outs, including an amazing barehanded catch behind the plate and a spectacular diving catch at third base.

“Tug doesn’t say much but his actions speak volumes,” said Sellers.

In their last seven divisional games, the Tigers have defeated their opponents by a combined score of 57-16, climbed to No. 3 in the state rankings and a Top 30 regional ranking. But the Tigers will find out just how good they are when they travel to Southaven, Mississippi to compete in the School’s Out Tournament June 4-6. The Tigers will compete against 15 other teams from five different states. There will be 112 teams in eight age divisions in Southaven.

“Our players have competed in three Cal Ripken state tournaments and one southeast regional,” commented Sellers, “but they’ve never experienced anything like the atmosphere in Southaven. This will help prepare us for the state tournament and the World Series in Pace, Florida.”