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Combat 13U team makes debut

Noah Pickens makes a sliding catch near center field during the Combats’ weekend 13U tournament.

Noah Pickens makes a sliding catch near center field during the Combats’ weekend 13U tournament.

The Greenville Combat travel ball league made its 13-and-under debut this past weekend at a baseball tournament hosted in Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

And though there were some hurdles to overcome in the transition from 12U to 13U, Combat coach Justin Kimbro said that he was pleased overall with his team’s performance.

Despite only holding a handful of practices up until the tournament, the Combats finished with a respectable 2-1 record.

The biggest change from 12U to 13U lay not with the players, but the playing field itself.  Last weekend, the team had to contend with a 54-80 field, meaning the mound was 54 feet away from home plate and bases were 80 feet away from each other.

“I was kind of timid in getting our kids up there to play because of the simple fact that it is going to be a big change, and our lack of practices,” Kimbro said. “But we performed really well.  We had some kids just step up when the time was right.

“We beat the L.S. Spartans out of Auburn, and I believe the score was 8-7.  And then we beat the Triton Rays, who had beaten us four or five times previously, 10-8.  So that showed me that we’ve improved even though we haven’t been practicing.  We hit the ball really well, we pitched really well and we just had some kids on fire.  It caught me on fire—especially with it being football season—that the kids were ready to play.  They could play again tomorrow, if I asked them to.  So that’s a good thing for me to be able to see that.”

The Combats fell to the Panhandle Legends, a super-team composed of the top talent from around the state.

“Three of them just made the East Cobb Travel Ball team, which is ranked No. 1 in the Southeast,” Kimbro said.

“We lost 8-0 to them, so playing a team like that was a big deal for us.  We competed, but we just have to learn to look at those big teams and say ‘Ok, we’re already beat.’ We have to get a little bit of fire in ourselves and say ‘we’re that team now.’ We’ve got the talent, but we have to get it in our kids’ minds to have a killer instinct of putting games away.”

The Combats will be back in action this weekend as the 9U team, which made a bid for state as 8-and-under all-stars this summer in Troy, prepares for its first tournament of the season.

The 13U team will face its next challenge in Wetumpka during a tournament slated for Oct. 3, and another on Oct. 10 from an undetermined location.