Brushing aside all challengers, Piedmont’s 11-and-12-year-old ‘O-Zone’ All-Stars captured the championship of the Dixie Youth District 8 baseball tournament at Ider without losing a game. The run through the tournament came as no surprise to Shane Kirk, Piedmont’s head coach.
“Not with this group,” Kirk responded when asked if his players’ success was unexpected. “We seem to win when this group is the older kids every year. We made it to the state when they were eight. We made it when they were ten and we’re going to make it when they’re twelve. This will be their third trip to the state tournament.”
This year’s team has seven 12-year-olds. They are outfielder Dawson Brazier, first baseman-outfielder Deangelo Foster, outfielder Landon Hilburn, second baseman Ryley Kirk, pitcher-catcher-infielder-outfielder Weston Kirk, shortstop-pitcher Mason Mohon and infielder-catcher-pitcher Sean Smith.
The five 11-year-olds are outfielder Jakari Foster, catcher-third baseman Steven Rainey, third baseman-outfielder-pitcher Noah Reedy, first baseman-outfielder-pitcher Silas Thompson and third baseman Hayden Young. Last season, each of the five played with Piedmont 9-and-10 All-Star team that advanced to the national Dixie Youth tournament.
Tony Kirk and Brian Young are Piedmont’s assistant coaches. Kirk said that Kenneth Doss of the Piedmont Parks and Recreation Department had also been extremely helpful to the team.
Piedmont downed Arab 9-2 on July 4 for the District 8 championship. Smith dominated on the mound in a six-inning complete game. Arab’s first four batters reached base on two walks and two hits as Arab took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first but Smith rallied to finish the game with 17 strikeouts. He did not allow another hit or run the rest of the way and issued only one more walk. Mohon had a solo home run and Ryley Kirk connected for a two-run homer. Deangelo Foster scored two runs. Jakari Foster drove in a run.
Piedmont opened tournament play with an 11-2 win over Centre. Mohon started on the mound and allowed just one hit and two runs while fanning three over three innings. Weston Kirk didn’t give up a hit and struck out eight over the final three innings. Mohon had two hits, including a two-out, grand slam home run in the fifth inning that snapped a 2-2 tie. Thompson had two hits and an RBI. Smith drove in two runs. Reedy and Weston Kirk had an RBI apiece.
Fort Payne was Piedmont’s second victim. The final score was 6-4. Jakari Foster’s grand slam homer with two away in the bottom of the fifth turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. He finished with two hits as did Brazier and Hilburn. Young and Thompson each had a hit and an RBI. Smith pitched all six innings and allowed just five hits while recording 12 strikeouts.
Next came a 12-2 win over Glencoe in a game shortened to four innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Piedmont scored six runs in the bottom of the third inning to take control, sparked by a bases-loaded single by Jakari Foster. He finished with two hits and knocked in three runs. Ryley Kirk’s two-out single drove in two runs. Hilburn walked twice and scored twice. Weston Kirk doubled home one run. Mohon tossed the first three innings, struck out four, walked one and allowed one run. Reedy fanned two and gave up a run in his inning of work.
Five players blasted home runs in Piedmont’s fourth tournament game, propelling the Bulldogs to a 16-2 win over Arab. Rainey and Ryley Kirk each homered in the top of the first inning as Piedmont opened a 7-0 lead. Kirk’s shot came with one runner aboard and Rainey’s was a three-run bomb. Smith had a solo home run in the third. Piedmont added eight runs in the top of the fourth, highlighted by two-run round-trippers from Thompson and Deangelo Foster. Mohon, Thompson and Ryley Kirk each recorded two hits. Young, Hilburn and Jakari Foster each added a hit and Young had an RBI. On the mound, Weston Kirk gave up one hit and struck out four in the first three innings. Thompson had a strikeout in the game’s fourth and final inning.
The Bulldogs advanced to the championship game by eliminating Centre 10-8. Mohon, Ryley Kirk and Jakari Foster had two hits apiece. Hilburn and Jakari Foster each had two-run base hits in the fourth inning. Deangelo Foster also drove in two runs. Rainey had a perfect day at the plate with a hit and two walks. Reedy, Smith and Weston Kirk each added an RBI. Mohon allowed one run with three strikeouts in the first three innings. With Reedy pitching, Centre scored one earned run and four unearned runs in the next two innings. Weston Kirk pitched the sixth for Piedmont and fanned two while allowing two runs.
Piedmont travels to Fairhope for the state tournament opening ceremonies on July 18. Play begins the following day. As District 8 champion, Piedmont plays at 4:30 p.m. against the District 6 champion.