The Franklin County Ozone All-Stars took third place in state tournament play at Spring Hill, as they competed for the Florida title among the smaller counties.
The team, under the coaching of Justin Odom and assistants Lanny Rester and Donny Gay, had swept the District 4 All-Star Tournament at D. W. Wilson Field in Apalachicola last month.
The team opened on July 12 with a 17-1 win over Cottondale, that lasted but three innings.
Devon Daniels was on the mound. “He did an excellent job,” said assistant coach Gay. “The team just gelled and played really well that day.
The Most Valuable Player of that game, selected by the Dixie Youth League national directors, was centerfielder Caden Turrell. “With his base running, he bunted the ball and was at first base before they could get to that ball,” said Gay.
On Sunday, the local boys lost 14-4 to Marianna in six innings. “We pitched four pitchers that day,” said Gay. “They were some big boys. One of the players on their team was 6’3. This kid was tall and he was quick, the fastest kid on the team.
“We hung in there with them the first couple of innings,” Gay said. “We just couldn’t get a rhythm. Marianna went undefeated in the tournament.”
On their off day Monday, July 14, some of the players and their families stayed at the motel, while others went bowling, or went to the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs.
On July 15, the team lost 7-4 to East Lakeland in seven innings, in a game that went into extra innings.
The game was knotted at 4-4 in the sixth. “They tied it up in the top of the sixth, and all we needed was one run in the bottom of the sixth to win the game.”
With one out, Matthew Gay singled, but he was left stranded. East Lakeland then got three runs in the top of the seventh for the win.
“Our team imploded, and we started making errors,” said assistant coach Gay.
The team competed in the B Division, for small towns such as Marianna and East Lakeland.
Ozone is a brand of ball the league went with last year, and it tries to capitalize on speed. It allows players to leadoff bases, cites pitchers for balks and has a longer distance to first base and the pitcher’s mound.
The team is losing four players next year who will be too old to continue play in Dixie Youth. “They're amazing athletes - Matthew Gay. Kyron Wheeler. Jake Norred and Zander McCalpin,” said Coach Odom. “We wish them all continued success in their athletic ventures.”
Because the county does not have a recreational program for boys over age 12, the young men will have the option of playing middle school ball.
Odom said he remains proud of his team this year. “The community made this possible with their support of our boys and we are very grateful for that,” he said. “Without it our kids wouldn't get this experience.”
One parent, Chala Parrish, said the experience has been great for players and parents alike. “All of these boys played hard,” she said. “They've played together for years. And watching them grow not only as players but lifetime friends is what it's all about for us parents.”
#3 Jarvis Turrell
#5 Schuyler Donahoe
#8 Devin Daniels
#9 Clint Rester
#11 Jake Norred
#13 Lamarius Martin
#14 Kyron Wheeler
#17 Caden Turrell
#20 Matthew Gay
#21 Josh Odom
#42 Joshua Farmer
#79 Zander McAlpin