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Natchez 9s and 10s preparing for sub-district tournament

Natchez Dixie Youth 9- and 10-year-old All-Star Jones Richardson tosses a warmup pitch during their exhibition game with the Concordia 9-year-old All-Stars Thursday in Vidalia. The 9- and 10-year-old sub-district tournament begins Friday in McComb. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez Dixie Youth 9- and 10-year-old All-Star Jones Richardson tosses a warmup pitch during their exhibition game with the Concordia 9-year-old All-Stars Thursday in Vidalia. The 9- and 10-year-old sub-district tournament begins Friday in McComb. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — For some of the Natchez Dixie Youth 9- and 10-year-olds, being an all-star is a new experience. For others, it’s an every-summer occurrence.

No matter the history of each player, the 9s and 10s are looking to make the most of their opportunity heading into the sub-district tournament this week.

“It never gets old, because I’m an all-around baseball player, and I’m used to (all-stars),” said 10-year-old L.J. Minor, who is a three-time all-star.

Second baseman/pitcher Jones Richardson said he’s looking forward to playing in the postseason for the first time in his Dixie Youth career.

“It feels good — it means you’re one of the best,” Richardson said.

Natchez Dixie Youth 9- and 10-year-old All-Star L.J. Minor watches as his hit sails into the outfield during the team’s exhibition game against the Concordia 9-year-old All-Stars Thursday in Vidalia. The hit ended up being a triple. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez Dixie Youth 9- and 10-year-old All-Star L.J. Minor watches as his hit sails into the outfield during the team’s exhibition game against the Concordia 9-year-old All-Stars Thursday in Vidalia. The hit ended up being a triple. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez 9s and 10s head coach Jasin Wesberry said he’s been impressed with how quickly the players have bonded since the team was selected June 11.

“They’ve really come together as a group,” Wesberry said. “They’re enjoying playing with each other, and they’re a good, solid bunch of kids. The main thing is, they’re eager to play.”

Practices have been geared toward pitching and baserunners, and Wesberry said most of the players are crisp fielders. Developing pitching is critical for the postseason, especially since the 9- and 10-year-old league is the first time players get to pitch.

“The majority (of the players) are 10-year-olds,” Wesberry said. “Some have pitched, but a lot of them haven’t. The good thing is, a lot of these kids have (fielded) on the mound, so they’re not strangers to it. We feel if we have to call on them, they can fill that role.”

Third baseman Jakalin Adams, 13, said he was expecting he and his teammates to bring good hitting and a lot of hustle to the sub-district tournament, which begins Friday in McComb.

“I think (the other teams) will be pretty good,” Adams said. “They’ll give us a run for our money. We’ll have to hustle and show good sportsmanship.”

Catcher Joseph Bumgarner, 10, said how much dedication he and his teammates bring to practice would determine how deep they go in the playoffs.

“It’s going to take a lot of practice and a lot of strength,” Bumgarner said. “I’m kind of excited and nervous (about sub-district), because I want to go all the way.”

In Wesberry’s opinion, pitching and hitting will both play a part in his team’s fortunes.

“Hitting the ball — and hitting it hard — will be important, but pitching to me will be the key,” Wesberry said.