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Greenville Combats build camaraderie in tournament experiences

Crenshaw County native Austin Archie sprints for home plate.

Crenshaw County native Austin Archie sprints for home plate.

The Greenville Combats 12-and-under travel ball team squared off in its first major outing of the season a week ago in Wetumpka in a nine-team tournament.  And though the team finished 1-2 on the afternoon, the lessons learned and skills gained on the diamond extend far beyond the win-loss column.

The AA Combats competed with eight other teams—three of which were classified as AAA or major teams—and Combats head coach Justin Kimbro said that the stiff competition proved a great barometer for the Combats’ progress at the halfway point of the season.

The Combats’ first opponent was T.C. Baseball, a AAA team out of LaGrange, Ga., and the Combats won in decisive fashion by a margin of 11-1.

Clayton Gough led the Combats on 2-2 hitting with 4 RBIs and a homerun.

Jacob Foster had 2 singles.  Austin Archie finished the game with a double and a single. And Garrett Fullington led the Combats from the mound with 9 strikeouts in 3 innings of play.

Luck of the draw didn’t favor the Combats in the next round, however, as the team was paired up with the strongest club at the tournament (and the eventual tournament winners), Twin Cities Baseball of Prattville.

“They’re one of the best teams in the state, and they’re a AAA/major team,” Kimbro said.

“We lost that game 9-5.  We actually gave them the best game of the tournament.

We had the bases loaded at the last at-bat, and we were unable to connect with that.  Otherwise, we could’ve possibly tied the game, if not at least gotten some of those runs back.

“I was really pleased with the way they played, because it was 9-1 going into the bottom of the third, and we came back to score 4 unanswered runs, so I’m really proud of how the team fought after that inning.  It showed a lot of character.”

Clayton Gough with a double and a single.  Austin Archie had 2 singles.  Braxton Kimbro led from the mound with 5 strikeouts in his first two innings.

The final game of the day proved the shortest drawn straw of all for the Combats, as an old threat resurfaced in the form of the Alabama Braves.

The Braves’ star pitcher shut out the Combats completely as the Braves took a 4-0 win.

“He actually pitched against us last, year, and he’s one of the best in the state,” Kimbro said.

“He throws around 73 or 74 mph, and he’s 12 years old.”

Kimbro said that the biggest challenge facing his team was building a sense of continuity among his players, who are spread out among multiple counties.

“We’re playing teams that are above where we’re at right not,” Kimbro said.

“That’s not saying that we can’t get to that point, but considering that this is our second year we’ve been playing, I think we’ve improved and we’re only going to get better.  You build continuity when you have teams that have been together for so long.

“But one thing I am for sure about is they have drive and heart, and as long as they continue to have those things, we’ll continue to be successful whether we win or lose.”

The Combats were originally scheduled to make their home debut at a Greenville-hosted tournament this weekend, but the event was postponed until sometime in May due to inclement weather.

The Combats will instead travel to Montgomery next Saturday, March 19, to participate in the Capitol City Slugfest.