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Natchez 11s gear up for South State tournament

NATCHEZ — After a lengthy break — by head coach Gary Farmer’s standards — the Natchez Dixie Youth 11-year-old All-Stars returned to practice this week.

The Natchez 11s clinched the Dixie Youth District 6 championship last Wednesday. Following the game, Farmer decided to give his players the rest of the week off before gearing up for the South State tournament, which starts Friday in Magee.

“I had a couple of calls from old coaching buddies of mine, and they said they couldn’t believe I gave them Thursday through Sunday off,” Farmer said.

“They need it, though. They came back revived, and we had a good 2 1/2 hours (Monday) hitting. (Tuesday) we’re doing some light hitting and working on our defense. We pitched them hard (Monday), so we don’t want to pitch them (Tuesday) and overwork them.”

The 11s will square off against Columbia Friday at 6 p.m., and Farmer said he has not had an opportunity to scout their opponent.

“I don’t know anything about them. All I know is that they were runner up to Hattiesburg, which went on to the (Dixie Youth) World Series last year,” Farmer said.

“Columbus also beat Petal to get into South State, and Petal’s traditionally a strong, well-coached team. I expect Columbus to be tough, but everyone in South State is good, so it’s going to be tough from here on out.”

Zach Flattmann, 11, who catches for the team, said his previous experience in the South State tournament gives him wisdom on what to tell teammates who haven’t been before. And that wisdom echoes what Farmer said about the level of competition.

“If they needed advice, I would just tell them that the games are harder, because the teams are better,” Flattmann said.

“We have to play hard, and keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll be fine.”

Even with the improved confidence, though, Farmer said he doesn’t expect his players to be intimidated at all.

“They won’t be intimidated, and I can say that with confidence. They’ve played together so long, and whether they’re the best team or not, they still think they can win. That’s something you can’t teach,” Farmer said.

And that attitude rubs off on the players, Flattmann said.

“Sometimes we’ll have an off game, and we’ll use that as encouragement. They want us to beat everyone we play, and that gives us more confidence,” Flattmann said.

It also helps that his coaches work the players so hard, Flattmann added.

“All the work pays off in the end. After three hours of practice (a day), it pays off, because we get so prepared, it’s almost easy when we get into games,” Flattmann said.

“We’re hungry to go to (the state tournament). We want to be No. 1 in the state, but first we have to get through South State.”

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