The Columbus age-group All-Star teams enter their respective state tournaments today with a sense of optimism about their chances to advance to the World Series.
Some of the coaches say pitching is the strength of their team, while others cite hitting or defense. Regardless of which phase of the game the Columbus teams hope will push them to the next round, the five head coaches/managers who will lead their teams into action are just as excited as their players to get started.
“We’ll do great. We have a chance to win it all,” said Kelvin Smith, the head coach of the Columbus Americans 8-year-old coach-pitch Dizzy Dean All-Star team. Smith coached the Orioles to a 12-1 record in Columbus’ Propst Park league. That mark was good enough to win the league. He has seven players from that squad on the All-Star team that he feels is ready to do some damage.
Smith is confident his team will be able to play well because most of it returns from last season when the then-7-year-olds finished third at the North state tournament. He said the team has jelled pretty easily this season and is primed to make a run without any excuses.
“Our offense is our strongest point. We have some crushers,” Smith said. “We have some guys who can really put the ball in play. Our defense is coming around, but our offense is pretty much our trademark.”
The team played in the Bulldog Bash a few weeks ago in Starkville and would up playing five games in one day. It advanced all of the way to the title game before losing to Starkville. Smith admitted his team was “spent” after a long day of baseball, but he feels the experience has helped prepare it for what it will face today.
The Columbus Americans 8-year-old All-Star team will play Louisville at 2:30 p.m. today in Louisville. Team members are: Jackson Conn, Lawson Dale, Melvin Crawford, Sam Hannon, Kelvin Smith Jr., Jackson Dollar, Christopher Gray, Richard Gay, Luke Altmyer, Jaylen Smith, Will Teague, and Michael Frierson. Assistant coaches are Chad Altmyer and Chad Dollar.
Columbus Nationals 8-year-old coach-pitch All-Stars
Barry Harcrow is a veteran of the coaching cycle.
With his 12-year-old son, Kobe, playing on one of Columbus’ All-Star teams and a 2-year-old daughter on the way to being a budding softball standout, Harcrow’s duties as head coach of the 8-year-old coach-pitch All-Star team add to his athletic fun.
All told, Harcrow said he first started coaching a nephew in baseball and has been involved in youth sports for 14-15 years.
“I just enjoy coaching kids and teaching them things about baseball and life,” said Harcrow, 42.
As coach of the Shaw Plumbing Reds, Harcrow and his players had a lot of success in Columbus’ Propst Park league. Now he hopes his latest group will be able to make a run in the postseason.
“You have to remember you have to show kids who are 7 to 8 years old how to do things,” Harcrow said. “You kind of forget they don’t know what we know.”
Like Smith, experience is making Harcrow’s job a little easier. Ten of the 12 players from last year’s All-Star team are back, which is why he sees very few weaknesses on the team. He said his squad is “pretty consistent” hitting the ball and that its outfield defense has improved. At this time of the year, outfield defense will be at a premium against some of the top hitters from the state.
“Like I told (assistant coach) Andy (Brown), if we would have caught more flyballs I thought we would have done better last year,” said Harcrow, who believes the team finished fifth a year ago in the tournament. “We have keyed in on that this year.”
Harcrow also likes that his players have a better understanding that baseball is a thinking game and that they have to know what to do before the ball is hit to them or what to do on the bases if the ball is hit. He hopes that maturation will serve the team well this year.
The Columbus 8-year-old coach-pitch All-Star Nationals will play Hamilton at 2:30 p.m. today in Louisville. Bottom row, from left: Bailey Rowzee, Aaron West, Antwaan Roland, Jacob Wilson, and Dakota Shaw. Middle row, from left: Kameron Harcrow, Adam Adair, Cooper Odom, Drew Brown, Hays Lumsden, and Zac Butler. Top row, from left: coaches Barry Harcrow, Andy Brown, Jeremy Lumsden, and Robbie Shaw. Not pictured: Taylon Stevenson. Assistant coaches are: Andy Brown, Robbie Shaw, and Jeremy Lumsden.
Columbus 10-year-old All-Stars
Consistency is the name of the game for Jackie Smith and his team.
His All-Stars have scored more than 20 runs in several of the games they have played, including in two warmup tournaments they won in Carrollton.
Smith, who coached the White Sox to a 12-1 record in Columbus’ Propst Park league, believes his players can maintain their slugging ways in front of the home crowd starting today.
“I feel really confident,” Smith said. “I want to say we’re going to win it, but I am going to guarantee we’re going to be in the top two or three.”
Smith is another coaching veteran. This is his first year coaching his son, Tyler, but he has been active as a coach with his 14-year-old daughter since coach pitch. His daughter will be a ninth-grader this year at New Hope High School.
As for his All-Stars, Smith said pitching and hitting will be the team’s strengths. He said all but one or two of the 13 players on the roster have pitched this season, which bodes well if the team advances in the tournament that will run through Tuesday or Wednesday (if necessary).
The Columbus 10-year-old Dizzy Dean All-Star team will play Ackerman at 6 p.m. today at Propst Park in the South state tournament. Bottom row, from left: J.R. Jourdan, Blayze Berry, Brandon Platero, Andrew Nix, Tyler Smith, and Dalton Moody. Middle row, from left: Ethan Bryan, Rye Mcglothin, Max Gee, Carson Collier, Luke Barrett, and Seth Harris. Top row, from left: assistant coach Chad Moody, assistant coach Ivan Bryan, and head coach Jackie Smith. Not pictured: Moak Griffin.
Columbus Americans 11- to 12-year-old All-Stars
Jamie Sharp isn’t fazed by the fact he has only two players returning from last year’s All-Star team.
Sharp, who has been coaching since his son, Laquinston, was 7, said he has three 11-year-olds on the team and feels his squad has what it takes to compete against anyone.
“They understand the game,” Sharp said. “We have a good hitting team and they can field, too. Their instincts are great, and they know what to do before the play happens.”
Sharp feels his team’s depth on the mound (seven pitchers) will help it stay alive a long time.
“I think we can go all of the way if everybody keeps their head on strong, stays motivated, and knows what to from the start so we can finish it,” Sharp said.
The Columbus Americans will play Carroll County at 10 a.m. today at Gary Park in Eupora. Team members are: Kobe Harcrow, Malik Henry, Kendré Conner, Laquinston Sharp, Jamel Thomas, Deonteau Rieves, R.J. DeLoach, Gregory King, Robert Brown, Terry Rowzee, and Deonteau Wright.
Columbus Nationals 11- to 12-year-old All-Stars
Swimming won’t be allowed for the next few weeks.
Head coach Tommy McCullough has issued that directive to his players in hopes of keeping them fresh so they will be able to make a deep run in the tournament and compete for a championship.
“If we’re on our ‘A’ game we’re going to be hard to beat,” McCullough said.
McCullough said his team has shown flashes of its potential in multi-home run games leading up to today. On the flip side, McCullough also has seen his team at less than its best, which why he considers focus so important.
“I have told them to stay inside all day,” said McCullough, referring to any “free” time his players will have away from the tournament.
McCullough, who coached the Twins to a 13-1 record in Columbus’ Propst Park league, has been helping coach teams since Tee-Ball. He feels his latest group is strong on the mound with five or six pitchers. And even though the team will start play today with only 1
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.