Dixie Youth fall in championship

Published 9:25 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

After fighting their way through the losers’ bracket, the Greenville Dixie Youth All-Stars fell to East Montgomery Red 5-4 in the championship game of the state tournament in Lincoln on Thursday night.

Most of the tournament had been nail-biting for Greenville fans, and the championship game was no different.

“We came out smoking in that game, but we threw a total of seven pitchers on Thursday, so we were a little short in that department,” said head coach Kenny Burkett.

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Greenville jumped out to a quick 3-0 start after two innings with runs from Ryan Burkett and Landon Smothers on RBIs from Matthew Sheffield and Austin Vickery.

Dalton Weeks also managed to score after drawing a walk.

East Montgomery Red put a run on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Greenville answered with another run from Weeks.

The bottom of the fifth proved to be Greenville’s downfall with East Montgomery putting up four runs on a combination of walks and timely hits.

After being unable to muster any offense in the top of the sixth inning, Greenville’s championship hopes came to an end.

However, that loss doesn’t take much of the shine off a miraculous tournament for Greenville, who came from behind in the previous three games to win.

“I saw the best baseball I’ve ever seen from 11-12 year-olds,” Burkett said. “I saw everything that could possibly happen, and things I never thought could happen.”

In their first game in the losers’ bracket, Greenville found themselves down 4-0 against East Montgomery White after two innings.

“Payton Frazier came in when we were down 3-0, and they got a run off him, but he came back and shut them down completely,” Burkett said.

Matthew Sheffield started the comeback with a leadoff double in the third inning, and he scored on a sacrifice from Will Smith.

A hit from Frazier and an RBI from Cody Harrell set the stage for the comeback.

“We weren’t hitting well, but we put together an onslaught of bunts,” Burkett said.

Austin Vickery, Sheffield and Colby Booker scored on errors, and Chance House laid down a perfect bunt with one out and the bases loaded to make it 5-4.

Greenville ended up winning the game 6-4.

“After that, you could just see the mental toughness,” Burkett said.

Against South Bibb, Greenville pulled out a 4-2 win after the game was postponed due to rain.

Greenville gave up two runs in the second inning, and Ryan Burkett came in to pitch.

Nick Hartley knocked in Sheffield and Harrell with a double, and later in the inning Booker scored.

Booker hit a home run in the fifth inning for an insurance run.

That set up three teams with one loss vying for a spot in the championship.

Alexandria already had a bye, so they had to play, and Greenville lost the draw out of a hat, so they faced off against Alexandria.

Greenville went down 9-0 early in the game, but didn’t give up.

“They left their pitcher in a little too long and we jumped on it,” Burkett said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Smothers, Drake Cabe, Harrell, Vickery, Booker, Hartley and Weeks scored in the fourth inning, and five of those runs came with two outs.

In the sixth inning, down 9-7, Greenville made some huge plays to win the game.

“Cody Harrell and Austin Vickery are the two best bunters in the history of Dixie Youth,” Burkett smiled.

Harrell bunted his way on base, and with two strikes, Vickery laid a bunt down the third base line that stopped just short of the chalk.

With two men aboard, Booker knocked them in to tie the game.

A sacrifice by Hartley moved Booker to third base, and Booker came home on a wild pitch to win the game.

Despite the heartbreaker in the championship game, Burkett said he was extremely proud of the way his team played.

“These are the greatest kids I’ve ever been around,” he said. “I’ve been coaching a long time, and it seems like baseball has gone the way of the home run, but we did it with pitching, defense and running the bases. I think small ball is coming back.”

Burkett also said that he couldn’t have done it all without the support of everyone.

“We couldn’t have survived without parents and family helping out, doing laundry, getting us food,” he said. “Gregg Fuller and the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department did a great job of keeping us straight.

“Ronnie Frazier was fantastic as an assistant coach, and I’ve been coaching with Steve Lee since March, and he’s been great,” Burkett said. “We also had Chase Whiddon, Chip Taylor and Harper Vinson pitch for us to get ready. I’m sure I’ve left a lot of people out, but the list just keeps going. We got a lot of support, and I’m thankful for that.”