Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 10, 2013

Little Leaguers readying for state tourney in Gardner

GARDNER — A baseball saying each year is that “hope springs eternal.” For one Greater Princeton Little League all-star team, so do state tournament opportunities — and an unfulfilled quest for the state championship in their age group.

Many in the group of 13- and 14-year-olds have played together as a team since the age of 9. Since they were 10, they have achieved five district championships and they have won 39 games to seven losses.

At age 12, they were the state runners-up. Last summer, they reached the state semifinal game and were denied another trip to the finals by a 1-0 score.

Their next chance, and perhaps the final one in the Little League program for many of them, comes this weekend at the Little League complex in Gardner, site of the state tournament for their age bracket.

Their first game is Friday at 8 p.m., followed by another pool play game on Saturday at 2 p.m. Survivors of pool play meet in semifinal games next Monday, with the championship set for Tuesday.

“I’m ready,” said Nick Shrewsbury, a player for PikeView Middle School during the spring. “I think it’s going to be completely different from the past few years. I think we’ll take it all the way.”

Logan Austin, who plays for Princeton Middle School, said, “(We’re) just ready to get on the field and prove we can go all the way.”

He said this year’s state event is “more personal, since everybody’s going to be watching right here in Princeton. It’s going to be more personal, to win the state and go all the way.”

Cole Cochran, also a Princeton Middle School athlete, said, “We’ve worked on just about everything you can think of. (Except for days with) rain, we’ve practiced just about every day we could.”

“Any competition is going to be tough. It’s the state (tournament).”

Austin said, “When we were 11 and 12 years old, we were the state runners-up in Little League, which was pretty, pretty rough, that we lost.”

He said the repeat state appearances come “when you work hard. Hopefully, this year, we have another chance to do it. We’ve won the district championship five years, and we’ve played in the state championship once.”

“So we’ve got one more chance to prove ourselves to everybody.”

This year, the GPLL entry in the age group became district champion by default, when no other all-star team in the area organized to challenge them. As a result, they have gone more than a week without playing.

They like their chances, in all phases of the game.

Austin said about the team’s offensive potential, “We’re going to be, probably, playing a lot of small ball. It just depends on whether the hits are going our way, or if they aren’t going our way. That’s the way baseball is.”

Shrewsbury said, “I think we’ve got one of the best pitchers in the state — Jacob Harmon. In pitching we’re ... great.” Shrewsbury credited Harmon’s success to “his mechanics and his fastball. He’s got the fastest pitch in the state, probably.”

Cochran said the group also has “a solid defense, all-around — infield, outfield, catching and pitching.”

Shrewsbury said the coaches, Tucker Meadows and Kenny Harmon, “work very hard. They’re serious. They’re all about winning the games and working hard, every day.”

Heather Austin, a team bookkeeper and Logan Austin’s mother, said, “They schedule two-hour practices and sometimes go three.”

A teacher at Princeton Senior High School and a Little League volunteer, she described herself as “the dugout mom, since they were age 9.”

“It’s different that they haven’t had a district tournament,” she said. “I haven’t seen them play as a unit. It’ll be interesting to see how they do. They’ve worked hard, but game situations are different.”

“They have played together for a long time. They play all year round. A lot of them are on various travel teams. ... They try to play as much as possible.”

“They definitely understand what they’re up against. They’ve been here before, and they know that they’re going to face top teams. They’re going to face the top two teams in every district.”

“This team doesn’t give up. If they get down in the score, they fight to regain the lead. I’ve never, ever seen this team get down and quit on themselves. They fight for every win.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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