Piedmont’s 9-and-10-year-old all-stars are headed to the Dixie Youth state baseball tournament in Troy, looking for Piedmont’s second straight state title for their age group. The state tournament begins July 18 with an evening meal and opening ceremonies for all the participating teams. The Piedmont all-stars open the state tournament against Oxford on July 19 at 3 p.m.
This year’s team includes two players who are nine years old and ten 10-year-olds. The 10-year-olds are outfielder-first baseman Gavin Bass, infielder-outfielder-pitcher Cassius Fairs-Thompson, outfielder-pitcher Omarion Foster, third baseman-pitcher Slade Haney, outfielder-pitcher Max Hanson, shortstop-catcher-pitcher Jack Hayes, catcher-outfielder-pitcher Jack Lamey, first baseman-third baseman-pitcher Landon Smart, second baseman Sloan Smith and first baseman Jack Tolbert. Outfielder Dalton Mitchell and outfielder Jayden Stubbs are 9-year-olds.
Chris Hanson, Terry Haney and Mike Hayes are coaching this year’s all-star team.
Piedmont captured the District 8 tournament championship at Fort Payne on July 2, rallying in their final time at bat to defeat Cherokee American 9-8.
The young Bulldogs trailed 8-6 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Haney and Lamey each walked to start the rally. With one away, Smith executed what Hanson called a “perfect bunt” for a hit that loaded the bases. Haney scored from third base on a sacrifice fly by Bass. Lamey scored from second, knotting the score at 8-8, and Smith moved to third when Tolbert reached on an error. Piedmont won when Tolbert started a delayed steal of second but no one covered the bag and the catcher’s throw went into the outfield allowing Smith to score easily from third.
The Cherokee County team took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first but Hayes’ solo home run in the bottom of the inning cut the deficit to 2-1. Bass doubled Haney home in the second and the score was 2-2. Trailing 4-2, Piedmont scored four times in the third. Foster, Fairs-Thompson, Hanson and Haney crossed the plate after a series of Cherokee errors. Foster pitched the final three innings and was the winning pitcher.
“Very excited to get an opportunity to advance to the state tournament,” the elder Hanson replied when asked about the players’ reactions. “These kids that are ten, for the majority of them this is their fourth state tournament they’ve gotten to participate in. They were very excited to be able to win the ball game the way we did.”
July 2 began with Piedmont, South DeKalb and Cherokee American remaining in contention, each with one loss. Having played fewer games to that point, Piedmont automatically had to play. Cherokee American drew the bye into the championship game. The Bulldogs won their way into the championship game with a 13-0 victory over South DeKalb, the team that had handed Piedmont its only tournament loss the previous day.
Fairs-Thompson tossed a 5-inning no-hitter and recorded nine strikeouts in the shutout. Mitchell, Foster and Hayes each scored twice. Bass doubled while Smart and Fairs-Thompson each had a single.
Hanson said he didn’t consider having to play twice in the same day an issue as Piedmont had played three or four one-day travel ball tournaments prior to the district tournament, playing four and even five games in a day.
“With this group right here, the more we play usually the better we are,” the coach said.
The tournament began on June 26 and Piedmont downed Arab 19-9 in its opening game. Hayes and Lamey combined on the mound. Hayes had four hits including a double. Lamey’s double and single drove in two runs. Tolbert scored three times. Fairs-Thompson singled twice. Hanson and Bass had a double apiece.
The next day saw Piedmont take another 19-9 win, this one over Guntersville. Fairs-Thompson was the starting pitcher and Hanson finished the final inning and one-third of the four-inning game, holding Guntersville hitless. Smart had a home run and two singles. Lamey singled three times. He and Foster each scored three runs. Hayes added a double to the win.
Piedmont’s location in the 12-team tournament bracket gave the Bulldogs a bye on June 28 and a place in the winners’ bracket final on June 29. Piedmont trailed Cherokee American by five runs early. Big innings in the fifth and sixth carried Piedmont to a 14-6 victory after Cherokee led 6-1.
Stubbs had a hot bat with a three-run home run, two singles and four RBIs. Hayes belted a three-run homer. Lamey unloaded a solo home run. Foster and Fairs-Thompson each had a pair of singles. Fairs-Thompson was the starter. Foster got the final out of the third inning and finished up without allowing a run.
Rain on June 30 postponed play until July 1 when Piedmont managed just four hits and fell to South DeKalb 3-1. Smart and Hanson each had a double while Hayes and Bass recorded a single each. Haney and Hanson pitched for Piedmont.