All-Stars prepare for state title defense

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Carson Cheek (left) chases down Luke Terry as the all-stars practice the rundown play on Monday in preparation for this weekend’s 13-15 year-old Babe Ruth League State Tournament in Lewisburg.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

After sweeping three straight games last weekend at Pulaski to claim the District 8 title, the Marshall County 13-15 year-old Babe Ruth League all-stars have home field advantage for the state tournament beginning Friday night at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Field in Lewisburg.

“I’m excited about getting out here and opening this state, but I’m not near as excited as these boys,” all-star manager Mike Mills said. “If you saw them today (Monday) when they were finished practicing they looked like mud balls and it’s dry out here.

“They work hard, they hustle everything out and I know they are ready to see a different color uniform out here.”

Logan Courtemanche tags out Logan McKnight between first and second base in the rundown drill.

Marshall County beat Lebanon 16-3 in the state title game last year and opens up tournament play versus East Nashville at 8 p.m. Friday night, following the opening ceremonies at 7 p.m.

Lebanon and Giles County square off at 5 p.m., while South Williamson drew a first round bye and faces the winner of the Lebanon/Giles County contest on Saturday.

The state title game is Sunday at 6 p.m.

Left fielder J.W. Beasley fires home during Monday’s all-star practice.

“We know the Giles County team and South Williamson, but we don’t know much about East Nashville and Lebanon,” Mills said. “We are going to show up like we are playing anybody.”

Marshall County made history last year when they became the first boys team to play in the Babe Ruth World Series as the earned an invitation to the event at Lawrenceburg where they posted a 1-3 record.

Marshall County has come close a couple of times to winning their way to the World Series via a Southeast Region Tournament title and Mills believes this years’ squad can break through after falling in back-to-back appearances in 2016 and 2017.

Former MCHS manager Steve Reese (center) talk’s strategy with the squad as all-star manager Mike Mills (left), coach Nathan Carey, and Bryson Whaley listen intently.

“We have come close, we have finished in some seconds and third in the southeast region and have been right in the mix, but have never taken that next step in winning it, but this group right here is very capable of getting it done.”

The squad consists of Connor McVey, Brady Calahan, Kyrklinn Wunderlin, Caleb Grooms, Javarria Rucker, Bryson Whaley, Logan Courtemanche, Luke Terry, Ethan Hollis, Carson Cheek, Zack Graves, Logan McKnight, Kel Greer, and J.W. Beasley.

“Like I told the boys, we don’t have a starting lineup, we’ve got 14 players and they plug in and out everywhere,” Mills said. “There may be a different lineup every game and it will be according to what we think the need is. They all have had good attitudes and are ready to fill those needs.”

Marshall County catcher Bryson Whaley chases a runner back to third base during the rundown drill as current MCHS manager Mike “Monk” Reese” coaches the play in the background.

“Like last week,” Mills added. “We get over there (Pulaski) in the finals of the district and Zach Graves had went six innings, but it was still a little bit of ballgame and we brought in Logan McKnight to close it out and he didn’t take it lightly at all when he came in and closed it out! That’s what you got to look for in a kid, somebody when that name is called they are ready to go and they want that ball.”

The team has been working hard, practicing twice a day most of last week and once a day this week.

“This is one of the hardest working groups I have ever been around,” Mills said. “I may have had more talented teams and this one has good talent, top to bottom, but as far as thirst of knowledge and wanting to play the game of baseball, I’ve had none any more than this one.”

Like always, Mills has also been getting a lot of help from his coaching friends in preparation for the state tournament and beyond, including current MCHS head coach Mike ‘Monk” Reese, former MCHS coach Steve Reese, and legendary Tiger baseball coach Joe George.

“I’m gonna tell you, there is a group of people that I really respect and like their help,” Mills said. “With Mike Reese and Steve Reese and I’ve got Pat Beatty been helping a little with some of them and of course Joe George anytime he has something to say, I’m listening.”

“I don’t think you can have too much coaching. If you can take their knowledge and put it in play it’s worth every minute.”