All-stars prepare for opportunity of a lifetime

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Preston Shelton takes a big lick in the batting cage in preparation for the Babe Ruth 15-year old World Series.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Marshall County Babe Ruth League 15-year old all-stars are working hard to bounce back after a disappointing showing that produced a 0-3 record at the Southeast Regional Tournament in Greenville, North Carolina.

“We went down there and the trip was long, it took most of them 11 hours to get there and we didn’t get a lot of rest before we came back the next day,” said Babe Ruth Wall of Famer Mike Mills. “They just weren’t sharp defensively or offensively and we never seemed to get in rhythm the way the games were set up.”

Mills’ squad has an opportunity of a lifetime ahead of them as they earned an at-large bid as the Tennessee state champion in the Babe Ruth World Series at Lawrenceburg this week.

Babe Ruth all-star manager Mike Mills (left) and assistant coach Greg Braford discuss some strategy at practice on Monday.

The berth is the first time in the longtime history of the league that a boys team has played in the World Series.

“I’ve been over there before when Lawrenceburg hosted it,” Mills said. “It’s a big show and they do a first class job over there.”

“It’s something until you experience it---and no team from here has in Marshall County Babe Ruth---it’s hard to imagine how big it is and I don’t think the boys know yet how big it is.”

Redemption is on the minds of the team after the winless appearance in Greenville as Marshall County got steamrolled 11-5, 20-2, and 16-2 after the long trek to North Carolina.

“I think they have learned a lot at the SE Region and they know what to look for now,” Mills said. “They didn’t get down about it, they stayed up and kept playing, so I think they will come out with a whole different attitude

Formal festivities begin tonight at Lawrenceburg with the Banquet of Champions followed by the Celebration of Champions hosted by former Babe Ruth World Series MVP and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor at Lawrence County High School.

Austin Grubbs warms up on the mound as longtime Marshall County High School coach Steve Reese looks on and offers some advice.

The games begin on Thursday at 3:30 at Bobby Brewer Park, followed by opening ceremonies at Denver Trapp Field at 6:30 p.m.

Marshall County did not get a favorable draw for the tournament as they open up play after the opening ceremonies on Thursday at 8 p.m. versus the SE Region Tournament champions from Orlando, Florida.

“We absolutely didn’t get a good draw,” Mills said. “We catch Sarasota first and they are an absolutely stacked team and they are tough and then we play the defending world champions from California, so we have to come out with a good mindset, stay positive and keep working.”

Spence Oliver drills a shot in the batting cage during practice at Walker Die Casting on Monday.

Orlando beat Marshall County 20-2 in the second game at the SE Region Tournament and Mills knows it will be a tough task in the first round.

“We are hoping to jump out on them early,” Mills said. “We are the visiting team in the first game and bat first, so we want to get some runs on the board in the first inning and let them know we are there to play.”

There are 10 teams at the World Series, spilt into two divisions with Marshall County in the National bracket along with Orlando, Newtown, Connecticut, Tri Valley, California, and West Windsor, New Jersey.

Matthew McCormick, who pitched some solid baseball at the SE Region Tournament warms up for the World Series at Lawrenceburg.

“Most of these teams go out and find the fastest kids, the best sticks and load up with good pitching, so here there are no walkovers,” Mills said. “But, I think we have the talent to play with them.”

Marshall County plays Tri Valley on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Newton at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and they finish up pool play on Sunday versus West Windsor at 3:30 p.m.

Host Lawrenceburg is in the American bracket with Janesville, Wisconsin, Bismarck, North Dakota, Meridian, Mississippi, and Camas-Washougal, Washington.

The top three teams from each division advance to the single elimination bracket round on Tuesday, August 15 with the title game scheduled for Thursday, August 17.

“Since we have been back and they have understood what they are facing, they have really picked it up, so I’m looking for a good showing,” Mills said. “I felt good about this team at the SE Region Tournament and I still feel good about them.”