“That says a lot about the baseball program,” said Mike Hayes, coach of Piedmont’s 11-12-year-old Dixie Youth O-Zone All Star team.
Hayes’ team started the tournament strong with a 12-0 victory over Rainsville. The Bulldogs went on to win four more consecutive playoff games, beating Boaz 6-0, Cherokee Nationals 3-2, Guntersville 11-1 and Cherokee Nationals again 8-2. The Piedmont All Stars gave up only five runs in five games and hit seven home runs in the district tournament.
Hayes said his team’s good showing during the district tournament was due in part to a focused outfield and strong pitching.
“They played good. I was proud of them,” said Hayes. “They had really good pitching and defense, and their bats came alive in the championship game.”
The 12 qualifiers for the Dixie Youth O-Zone teams compete for the state championship in Centre beginning Saturday, July 23. Piedmont is scheduled to play at 7:30.
Piedmont’s 9- and 10-year-old All Star team played Rainsville twice last Saturday. Things looked bad for Piedmont early in the first game. The Bulldogs were down by five runs in the first inning before their hitters started connecting and they overtook Rainsville to win 9-6. Piedmont defeated Rainsville 6-2 in the last game to take the championship. They went 6-0 throughout the tournament.
“We got better from game one,” said Shane Kirk, coach of the 9-10 All Star team. “Pitching was really good, and that made the difference.”
Kirk credits the win to his players’ ability to constantly improve each and every game throughout the tournament, and says Piedmont baseball fans have some good things to look forward to in the years to come. Piedmont’s 9-10 All Stars will begin their State Championship play on July 22 in Athens.
For the 7- and 8-year-old Piedmont All Stars, it was all about moving past a rough first game. The Bulldogs lost their first game before coming back to beat Collinsville 14-0, Hokes Bluff 17-4 and Rainsville 13-4.
The team played two games last Thursday, winning with a 9-1 victory over Fort Payne and a 13-10 victory over Rainsville. Those two wins put the Piedmont All Stars against the Cherokee National for a best of three series. Piedmont responded with an 11-9 win and a 17-7 victory for the championship.
In an interview last week, 7- and 8-year-old coach Chris Hanson said his team really responded to the outpouring of support from fans throughout the tournament.
“You know I could talk all day about individuals and what they did, but this was a team effort,” he said. “It seemed like every day somebody different would step up and provide the leadership we needed.”
State Championship play for Piedmont’s 7-8-year-old All Stars will begin July 15 in Hartselle. Piedmont will play at 7 p.m.