The Enterprise 17U All-Star baseball team took home the Dixie Boys Pre-Majors State Championship in Eufaula this past weekend, outscoring their opponents 35-14 over four games.
The team opened the tournament with an 8-5 comeback win over Eufaula Gray. After falling behind by three, Enterprise scored four runs in the top of the fourth to take a 4-3 lead. Eufaula went ahead by one in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead, but Enterprise scored four runs in the fifth to seal the win. Walt Spurlin pitched 4.3 innings for Enterprise and allowed three runs before being relieved.
Enterprise and Eufaula Red faced off in game two, and Enterprise won big 13-3 after a lengthy rain delay. Payton Green pitched five innings and allowed one run to score.
Each with a loss, Eufaula Red and Eufaula Gray battled through several rain delays for the second spot in the championship game, and Eufaula Gray ultimately won out for a rematch with the Enterprise boys.
Eufaula Gray handed the team their only loss of the weekend by a score of 6-2. Logan Flemming pitched 5.3 innings and gave up four runs, and Jordan McDonald hit a homerun. In the second game to determine who would take second place and whose season would continue, Enterprise dominated on the field and at the plate and won 12-0 in a seven-inning, two-hit shutout thrown by Spurlin.
“I remember that because he kept telling me every inning,” head coach Eddie Morris said.
The next stop for the team is a weekend tournament in Panama City, Fla., prior to the World Series in Sterlington, La. from July 23-28, to help the team get some more games under their belts. Morris said the four games they played in the state tournament were just the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth games played this season. Aside from a few scrimmage matches, Enterprise previously played in a three-game tournament in Ozark and one game in a tournament in Niceville, Fla. that was canceled due to the weather.
Aside from a lack of playing time, Morris said the biggest obstacle this season has been injuries. Starting first baseman Tristen Bartling suffered a shoulder injury several weeks ago, and backup catcher/first baseman Bowen Beckham has just recently come off the injured list. Beckham filled in for Bartling for the majority of the tournament, and Morris said he showed out.
“He dug about four balls out of the dirt and probably saved us five or six base runners,” he said. “I’ve had Bowen since he was 8 years old. He had a game. I know what he’s capable of, but he was making stops that even the other coach was like, ‘Man, will you stop making plays? You’re killing me.’”
Because of the defensive changes due to injuries, Morris said that will be their main area of focus as they prepare for the World Series, and why the Panama City tournament is so important.
“That’s been our main problem this season. We do have some kids on the mend, but with kids still playing out of position, it’s crucial we get them more reps in those positions,” he said. “Like anyone, kids need reps, just constant reps. We’re more set after this weekend, though. I was still experimenting because of people playing out of position, but we locked it down where they can get those reps instead of moving around constantly.”
Another big area of adjustment was losing the bulk of his team from last year, a team that also made it to the World Series. Just three players returned this season.
“The team I had last year, that was my main core travel ball team I had for years,” Morris said. “There’s been an adjustment period for that, but most of the kids we picked up I know and I’ve coached at one time or another. It’s worked out.”
One area they have not struggled in, however, is coming together as a team. Morris said despite several of the players coming from Troy, Daleville and New Brockton, they’ve all played together or against each other at some point in time.
The 17U team joins Enterprise’s 8U rookie baseball team and Kinston’s 12U softball team as state champions, and Morris, who’s been coaching different age groups in Enterprise for the last 10 years, said the area’s success is indicative of a growing interest in baseball, and softball, and kids learning from a younger age.
“It’s a big improvement. This group of kids now is way more advanced than where we were when I first started, and a lot more teams are playing,” he said. “Enterprise and the surrounding area are going to benefit greatly from that. You can definitely see that these kids are getting involved with baseball from an earlier age, and I’ve definitely seen a difference in the kids across the different age groups, even in other towns.”