by Malcolm Butler
Just minutes after falling 8-3 to Team Louisiana in an elimination game at the Dixie Youth World Series at the Ruston Sports Complex Tuesday morning, members of the host Ruston 10u All-Star team were taking photos and soaking up more of the week-long (really months long) experience.
In a tournament that started Friday, the host boys battled through tough opponents, found ways to win close games, and ultimately made a impressive run to finish in third place.
And although they came up just short of the championship game, the Ruston 10u All-Stars represented their community and their families well.
“The main message (after the game) was just how proud we are of them,” said Manager Cody Channell. “They have spent their whole summer working for this moment and they earned it.
“The grind. The sweat. They came together. It took us a minute, but I am so proud of them. When they get our age, they will reflect back and be proud of this moment too.”
Team Louisiana took an early 1-0 lead. But if not for some clutch pitching by starter Brantlee Doolittle to get out of some early jams, the deficit could have been much larger.
Brantlee faced a bases loaded, no outs jam early and surrendered just one run and then kept Team Louisiana completely off the scoreboard in another runners in scoring position one out situation. When Ruston needed a big out in those early innings, Doolittle dug deep.
“He was so impressive,” said Channell of Doolittle, who worked 4.0 innings before reaching his pitch limit. “He gave us a shot. We road him all summer long. He always gave us a chance to win and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning, Ruston came up with a two-out rally. Jameson Sutton walked to start the rally followed by Bear Brasher and Doolittle both reaching safely to set the stage for Cooper Stoehr. After watching a 1-2 pitch barely miss just off the plate to even the count, Stoehr laced a pitch into right centerfield, scoring both Sutton and Brasher to give Ruston the 2-1 lead.
The score remained that way until the top of the fifth inning when Team Louisiana started playing strictly small ball. After the leadoff hitter reach on an HBP, four straight players laid down bunts, leading to a pair of runs as Team Louisiana grabbed a 3-2 lead.
“We worked on (defending the bunt) a lot,” said Channell. “It’s just fundamental baseball. But once we made a mistake, they just kept doing it and the pressure gets to these young kids. It’s tough on them. You know they are 10. They know what to do but in that moment with the fans and the game situation it’s just tough.”
After a three up, three down inning for Ruston in the bottom of the fifth, Team Louisiana capitalized once again in the sixth inning, plating five runs three hits, a walk, an HBP and a couple of errors to extend their advantage out to 8-2.
Ruston fought to the very end, plating a run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth before the final out was record.
Team Louisiana will face Team Florida – a 7-6 winner over Team Arkansas in extra innings — in the championship game.