Rebel League All-Stars get primed for district tournament in Summit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; No more preaching until they’re blue in the face. No more reminding everyone that there’s other ways to get on base besides a walk.

And no more reminding that the pitchers can’t do it all.

The Natchez Rebel League All-Stars reached their potential in claiming the sub-district title by beating the Confederate League twice in the finals. Coaches were doing everything but pounding fists waiting for it to come, and &045; like presents on Christmas morning &045; it couldn’t have been at a better time.

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Now the Rebel League opens the District 6 tournament at 8 p.m. today at Summit against the host team.

&uot;I think they’re there,&uot; Rebel League head coach Tom Middleton said. &uot;We had two good practices Wednesday and Thursday, and the we gave them (Friday) off. I think the biggest positive out of Tuesday night was they got their confidence back, and that’s what we need going in.&uot;

Yet another positive?

This bunch has been at this point before, and they’re already proven they can play. The roster is sprinkled with players from last year’s coach-pitch Natchez Americans that advanced to the state tournament and others from last year’s squad that advanced to the district tournament.

Today marks the start of a four-team tournament with Brookhaven Americans and McComb, and the Rebel League likes the position it’s in.

&uot;They’re pretty well battle-tested,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;We’ve got a lot of 9-year-olds on the team who were in the state tournament last year, and there are others who played on the Mudcat team and have been playing since February. They’ve got a lot of games under their belts and have been in tough situations. I think that helped a lot when it came down to crunch time.&uot;

While the bats will still be a high priority, it’s not to mask the importance of pitching when you get to this point. The Rebel League will stick with its top three hurlers in Brandon Sanders, Tyler Morrison and Hunter Hatcher and hope to stay steady enough not to burn them quick.

Each pitcher has a limit on the amount of innings he can throw, and no one wants to get into the bullpen more than they have to. Morrison threw a gem Tuesday night to win the sub-district title as an encore to Hatcher’s performance in Game 1.

&uot;I think pitching is the No. 1 ingredient,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;It doesn’t hurt you as much in a four-team tournament as it does as the next level at state, but here you’ve got to have the pitching. In the sub-district tournament the Confederate League was able to go with those two almost the whole tournament, and we’re hoping to be in that situation at district. But you’ve got to keep winning to do that.&uot;