Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 17, 2013

State tourney a success

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The final result was not what the home fans had hoped for, but the Greater Princeton Little League organization was a winner of sorts this week by pulling off yet another successful Little League state tournament in Gardner.

 The stands and hillside to the right of right field were decked out with canopies and dozens of blue and white balloons on Tuesday as more than 100 fans came out to watch the Junior League division Princeton All-Stars compete with a Charleston-area team for the state championship and a trip to the regionals.

 Princeton fell 3-2 to the Mountaineers All-Stars. The Mercer countians had plowed through the tournament field in earlier rounds with wins by scores of 8-7, 13-0 and 8-1.

 Princeton all-star Caleb Pennington, a standout at the plate during the tournament, said after the title game, “It was a good run — a really good run. It took all 13 of us. We had good team chemistry (and) we played with all we had.”

 Levi Nash, the starting pitcher on Tuesday, said the team got to the level it did through “very hard work and sweat. We had batting practice non-stop. We’d practice almost every day.”

 The team’s head coach, Tucker Meadows, said, “The quality of my players is very good. I’ve coached the all-stars for about seven or eight years and this is the first time that I’ve ever taken as many as 13 players. And I don’t regret taking 13, because it gives an extra kid a chance to be on the all-star team.”

Nash said that during Meadows’ postgame talk with the players and their parents, the coach had said, “Guys, you did great. We had a great tournament. Just keep your heads up. It’s great to be runners-up.”

Those inspiring words could not take away all the pain of a one-run loss in a state championship contest — and seeing the joyful Mountaineers team douse its coach with a cooler full of liquid in a celebration ritual on Princeton’s home diamond.

As Pennington said, “It sinks to lose, but it happens.”

Life does go on. Away from the main show on the premier diamond, nine boys of varying sizes were playing a pickup game on the No. 2 field, wearing a rainbow of different colored shirts.

And behind the backstop, overlooking the No. 1 field, GPLL president Stanley Six leaned against the green metal wall of the complex’s main building, with the American flag flying from the pole in front of him.

He had come in for the final two days of the state tournament, after taking the weekend to watch his grandson get married in the Great Smoky Mountains. He had put administration of the tournament into the capable hands of Tom Bailey.

It wasn’t Princeton’s “turn” to host the 2013 state tournament, Six said, but because of a conflict arising from the arrival of Boy Scouts in West Virginia, he was asked to host the event at Gardner.

Six said, “I went around and rounded up enough motels to handle the (crowd), and I told him (district administrator Paul Flanigan) that I’m here for the kids and the tournament. That’s why I brought it home, here. And my team (was) playing in it.”

Flanigan, whose district includes Mercer, Monroe and three other counties, said, “Princeton always puts on a fantastic tournament. ... This is one of the only places I’ve been that even the losers leave happy — because of the hospitality they’re shown here.”

“That’s a tribute to Stanley, and to these guys who work endless months to keep up the facility and prepare for the tournaments.”

Six noted that the GPLL will host yet another state tournament, the Senior League division for 15- and 16-year-olds, from this Saturday through Monday. There are no local teams in that tournament this year.

Many of this year’s Junior League competitors from the Princeton area will be moving up to that age bracket next season, They hope that will change.

“There’s always next year,” Pennington said. “We’ll play with the same group and see what happens next year.”

Tom Bone is a Daily Telegraph sports writer and cartoonist. Contact him at