Decatur American picks up 11- and 12-year-old state bid
By Paul Stackhouse
HARTSELLE — The Decatur American 11- and 12-year-old all-stars are headed to the Dixie Youth Baseball state tournament.
In a battle of city rivals, Decatur American claimed the district “ozone” championship Wednesday night at Sparkman Park with a 11-9 win over Decatur National.
In a show of friendship between players and coaches, both teams gathered around the infield following the game, allowing parents to take photographs. Players standing elbow-to-elbow with their counterparts were all smiles, but only Decatur American will play in the state tournament July 14 in Columbiana.
Even so, the champions wanted their friends to share the moment with them.
“The Decatur National players, coaches and their families are all family to us,” Decatur American coach John Crow said. “I was glad to see this was an all-Decatur affair.”
Decatur American was unbeaten in the double-elimination event, while the Nationals had suffered one loss. That meant the Nationals needed to win twice to secure the district championship. However, the Americans’ win ended the final day after one win.
It appeared as if the Americans might run away with the game after taking a 5-1 lead after two innings. However, the Nationals scored four times in the bottom of the third to tie the score at 5.
Going into the sixth and final inning, Decatur American held a 7-5 advantage.
The Americans pushed four insurance runs across the plate for a 11-5 cushion, but it almost wasn’t enough. Decatur National managed scored four runs of its own in the final inning before the final rally fizzled.
In the top of the sixth, Decatur American’s Josh Walker and Blake Hall received back-to-back walks before Chris Sparkman belted a three-run home run to right field. A.J. McKinnon then doubled and scored on a ground ball hit by Bryant Sivley to secure the victory.
The homer was Sparkman’s fifth in eight all-star games.
“I have no clue what kind of pitch it was that I hit, but I knew it was gone when I hit it,” Sparkman said. “We knew we were ahead, but in the dugout we talked about needing some more runs there in the sixth. Boy, I’m glad we did.”
Sparkman was elated after the game knowing he is headed to his first state tournament.
“All of us were thinking about this game after winning last night,” he said. “We all wanted to go to state. But we knew we had to win this one to get us there.”
In addition to Sparkman, A.J. McKinnon had a solo home run and a single for the Americans. Jake Hamilton and Chad Cooper finished with a single each.
Will Gann had a two-run home run and a single to lead Decatur National. Austin Compton had a solo home run. Chase Holladay had a double and a single, while Keith Layton stroked three singles. Kyle Ingram, Max Ackley and Cody Locklin finished with a single each.
Blake Hall earned the win on the mound for Decatur American. He pitched three innings, allowing five hits while striking out three and walking one.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group to coach,” Crow said.
Crow’s son, Daniel, was on the all-star team but was injured in a four-wheeler accident before tournament play started.
“At times we’ve been tough on our players, but as everyone can see they have responded to everything we have asked of them,” Crow said.
11- and 12-year-olds
Moulton 12, Hatton 0: Moulton won its sub-district final as Ryan Inman and Martin Little combined to pitch a three-hitter.
Ryan Rogers slugged two homers for the winners, while Victoria Draper had a triple and a single. Inman added a double and a single.
Moulton will start district play Friday at Greenhill.
9- and 10-year-olds
Moulton 5, Caddo 4: Trailing 4-3 going into the bottom of the sixth inning of a sub-district matchup, Moulton scored twice when Luke Hopper’s single brought home Zach Nichols, and Hopper later came home on a wild pitch.
Klay Collins had a single and a double for the winners, while Nichols had two singles. Tanner Reed had a triple and a single, and Chandler Dutton singled once.
For Caddo, Jamie Lawless and Jaret Milligan each scored on bases-loaded walks, while Devin Williams had a triple and a double.
7- and 8-year-olds
Decatur National 15, Hartselle American 4: The Nationals advanced to the championship round with their win and will play again Thursday at 6 p.m. against Hartselle National, which beat Decatur American 11-2 in an elimination game.
Decatur National is unbeaten in the tournament at Athens Sportsplex, while Hartselle National has one loss. If Hartselle wins the 6 p.m. game, the two squads will face off in a winner-take-all game at 8 p.m.
For Decatur National against Hartselle American, John Reihl and Jack Collins each had three singles. Alec Marks added two singles and a triple.
Charlie Cushing had a single and a double, and Noah Burroughs, Ben Berry and Hunter Lee each singled twice.
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