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USSSA team wins 17U series

The West Alabama USSSA 16U team took a step up over the weekend, rounding out its summer with a tournament win in the USSSA 17U Global World Series in Gulf Shores.

Head coach Bart Butler said the relative closeness of the tournament weighed heavily in the decision to pass up on other draws in South Carolina and Florida.

“Distance was a big thing,” Butler said before noting the higher level of competition proved beneficial to his players. “But it ended up helping them.”

West Alabama got off to a rough start Friday night with a 6-1 loss to the LA Thunder, team out of Lake Charles, La.

West Alabama managed only two hits in that contest, getting a single from Austin Anderson and a solo home run out of Taylor Polk.

The boys from the Black Belt did little to bounce back after that contest, dropping a second Friday night game against the West Point-based Mississippi Bombers.

West Alabama got a 2-for-3 game from Matt Etheridge, who also had two RBIs. Anderson scored a run and picked up an RBI while Logan Holley, Daniel Sturdivant and Kole Thrasher each scored once. But it was all for naught as WA suffered a 12-4 shelling against the Bombers.

“You walk 16 or 17 batters and have that many errors in two games, there is no way you’re going to win like that,” Butler said of his team’s Friday night struggles. “I thought they had a lack of focus. But they got it in gear and took care of business the next two days.”

West Alabama started that business against the Mississippi Diamond Jaxx, picking up a 7-6 win Saturday.

Mason Rogers put together a 3-for-3 game with a pair of doubles and two runs scored. Joey Raybon had a double and an RBI. Devin Stroud went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Jacob Dunn scored a run and had two RBIs. Chase Cameron scored a pair of runs and Thrasher had a hit.

However, the story of the game proved to be Polk. Having struggled for much of the summer, Polk managed his second homer in as many days when he went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored.

Polk carried that success into Saturday’s second game when his monster day helped West Alabama drop the Bessemer Rebels 14-5.

Polk went 3-for-3 with a home run, a double, three runs scored and seven RBIs in the contest.

He headlined a hit parade that also saw William Stewart go 2-for-2 with three RBIs and a run scored. Crawford Traylor and Alex Sturdivant each scored a pair of runs. Thrasher, Anderson, Brett Davis and Wesley Anderson each accounted for a run. Raybon and Stroud each scored a run and had an RBI. Daniel Sturdivant picked up an RBI and Chase Cameron had a double.

Wesley Anderson got the win in the game, working three innings and fanning three batters. Etheridge worked the final three and struck out five.

The 2-2 mark in pool play sent West Alabama into a Sunday rematch with the Bombers in single-elimination play. West Alabama dispatched of Mississippi 13-2.

Etheridge was 1-for-2 with two runs and three RBIs in that game. Rogers was 2-for-2 with two runs scored. Raybon went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Polk continued his hot streak with a 2-for-2 game that included a double, two runs and two RBIs.

Stewart went 1-for-2 with a run. Alex Sturdivant, Thrasher and Stroud each scored a run and picked up an RBI. Dunn had an RBI while Daniel Sturdivant also scored. Holley and Austin Anderson each went 1-for-1 in the contest.

Traylor pitched a complete game, punching out five batters for the win. The victory sent West Alabama into a championship game against the LA Thunder. West Alabama continued the offensive outburst in that game, scoring 10 runs to back up a Linc Luker gem to win 10-6 and grab the title.

Luker pitched all seven innings, scattering six hits and striking out 10 for the win.

Etheridge went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI. Rogers was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and an RBI. Raybon went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Polk wrapped up his tournament with a 1-for-2 line that included a run and two RBIs. Austin Anderson was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Davis went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. Thrasher went 1-for-3 with a run.

While the West Alabama team wrapped up its summer at 22-6 with the USSSA 16U Alabama state and USSSA 17U Global World Series championships, Butler said the real success of the team came in the way it worked.

“Over the summer we were worried about doing things right and the record is a by-product of their hard work,” Butler said.

And while it took most of the summer for the results to bear out for Polk, his breakthrough came in the biggest of ways over the weekend. According to Butler, Polk’s final weekend serves as a microcosm of the team’s entire summer.

“This weekend for Taylor really represented the team’s season as a whole,” Butler said of Polk, who went 10-for-13 on the weekend with three home runs, three doubles, nine runs scored and 15 RBIs. “He showed up every day and worked his butt off and it paid off.”