After dominating the District 4 All-Star Tournament two weeks ago at D. W. Wilson Field in Apalachicola, the Franklin County AA All-Stars are headed to Marianna to take on the best throughout the state.
Coach Andy Pace and assistants William Chipman, Travis Bentley and Ricky Abercrombie have shepherded a crew of 7 and 8 year olds boys, and girl, to the state.
The All-Stars dominated the June 13-16 district tournament in Apalachicola, by winning all three of the games. In AA, teams use a pitching machine, with the coach feeding the baseball into the machine, which hurls it at a speed of 40 miles per hour, directly into the strike zone.
“The speed is constant for every game,” said Pace. “You can’t change that.
“The official blesses the readjustment of the machine,” he said. “If there’s a flaw in the machine, or if something is not set just right, there could be problems.”
While they are not machines, but young people, the Franklin County team was set just right at the district tourney.
In their first game Saturday, June 14, the Franklin County All-Stars won 19-4 over Port St. Joe, and then in their second game won 21-2 over Wewahitchka. In the championship game Monday, June 16, the All-Stars again defeated Port St. Joe, this time 16-10, although it was their most lackluster performance of the tourney..
“We didn’t do too bad,” said Pace. “As a team we’re hitting the ball great. We finished the district tournament with close to .800 team batting average. We need to concentrate on keep hitting the ball and defense and I think we’ll do pretty good in the state tournament.
Pace said two players are batting .1000 and just one player is batting below .500. Hannah Abel, the team’s only girl, and Brett Charles, rotate each inning on the mound, and while they don’t pitch the ball, they are responsible for scooping up ground balls and making plays at the bases. Abel is one of two girls in the AA league in the county, the other Pace’s daughter Mason.
“They’re a defensive player at the pitcher’s mound,” Pace said. “They have to make a defensive play on it. We’ve been blessed to play pretty good defense.”
Franklin County, the district winner, and Port St. Joe, the runner-up, both leave to go to state Friday morning, in Marianna.
There, at the Friday night banquet, they’ll find out who among the 16 teams they’ll face as they embark on a fairly tough schedule of games.
There are four pools of four teams, and each team plays seven pool games, three on Saturday, two on Sunday, and two on Monday.
Depending on the outcomes and how they’re seated in the pool, the top two teams in each pool go to an eight-team double elimination playoff, with the first round on Monday night at 8 p.m. That goes through Wednesday night.
“You’ll play every day regardless,” said Pace. “You got to make sure your players are rested.”
Pace said players and coaches run through defensive and offensive drills at practice. “We pair them off one-on-one with coaches,” he said. “We go over situations, we practice as a live game situation. Sometimes it’s just like verbal practice, like ‘What do you do when there’s a man on first base with one out?’ Just to get them thinking ‘What do I do with the baseball?’”
Parents have been busy fundraising, and thanks to a donation from the county parks and recreation, and from the cities of Apalachicola and Carrabelle, the team is ready for state action.
#3 Logan Bentley, OF
#5 Braden Shiver, OF
#7 Hannah Abel, Pitcher
#9 Brycin Kennedy, OF
#11 Reed Nix, OF
#16 Chase Millender, Catcher
#17 Terry Proctor, SS
#20 Cody Abercrombie, 1B
#21 Jenzen Odom, 2B
#22 Anthony Stulsky, OF
#23 William Chipman, 3B
#53 Brett Charles, Pitcher