Bradford optimistic about stars
The Marshall County Babe Ruth League's 14-year old all-stars have not won a state title since 2006 under Mike Mills, but the 2015 squad could break the long drought if they can get over a major hurdle.
"I can tell you, this is one of the strongest 14-year old teams I have seen in a long while," said Marshall County manager Bradford.
Manager Greg Bradford knows all about the past as his brother Dwayne was on one of the state championship squads and he is optimistic that the current team can bring home the state championship.
Showing the rings
"I have not seen a team as strong or comparable to that team and we actually brought the rings out to show the guys," said Bradford.
There are some complications Bradford has to overcome to get the team to Cookeville when the state tournament opens on July 17, most notably the absence of six key players, who will not be available for the majority of the district tournament that begins at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Babe Ruth Field at Lewisburg on July 2.
"Having those starters out for the district will be tough, but overall if we can get through district and get those starters back, we have a great chance to win state," said Bradford.
Bradford had no choice but to increase the squad's size to the maximum amount of 15 due to those six players who will not participate because of previous commitments.
Preston Shelton, Blake Distelow, Caleb Crowell, Gauge Anderson, Dylan Pendley and Hunter Haurez will not be on the field at Lewisburg for much of the district tournament.
Marshall County will only have nine players available when they take on Lawrenceburg at 8 p.m. on July 2 in the opening round.
"We still have a very strong nine and having the home field advantage will help a lot," said Bradford.
"That first game will be very important versus Lawrenceburg and than we would have Giles County in the next round," said Bradford.
Loaded and ready
Bradford is still loaded for the district tournament as he has 13-year old MVP Austin Grubbs, pitching award winner Ethan Mealer and batting champion Jaylen Smith penciled in as starters.
The battery for the opener will be Mealer most likely getting the start on the mound with Smith behind the plate.
The infield will consist of Austin Grubbs at first base, Walker Whaley will play second base, Dustin Brashear will man the shortstop position and Cameron Burrow will hunker down on the hot corner at third base.
"We had to change our entire infield and we have no subs for the game, so everyone will have to play well," said Bradford.
Allante Watts get the nod in leftfield, Mitchell Ford will use his speed and athleticism in center field and Nichirin's big RBI man, Joseph Freeland will get the call in right field duty.
Brashear, Grubbs, Burrow and Ford have also put in a lot of innings on the mound in the regular season, giving Bradford plenty of arms to make it through the district tournament that runs through July 6.
"I think with Mealer and Brashear we can get through the district, but we are going to have to pitch well and throw strikes," said Bradford.
"If we can get the bat on the ball and score we can get through with the defense we have set up."
Damon Mealer and Tim Haurez will be helping Bradford with the coaching duties.
"If we can stay in the winners' bracket and get to Monday, we will get some of those starters back and we will have to get beat twice," said Bradford.