12s try to take south

Published 12:01 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Eric Shelton | The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Dixie Youth’s Cooper Murray tries to put out Brock Farmer during the team’s South State Final preparation Tuesday afternoon at Duncan Park.

NATCHEZ — It’s been two weeks since the Natchez Dixie Youth 12-year-olds clinched a trip to Hattiesburg for the South State Championship tournament.

After having a little fun and working to prepare during the layoff, the Natchez 12s are set to take on Petal at 2 p.m. today in the first round of the south state tournament.

Two weeks full of constant preparation would have taken a toll on the young ballplayers, head coach Gary Farmer said. With that in mind the team took time out last week to have a little fun, and got back to business Monday preparing for its championship run.

Email newsletter signup

“Last week we just practiced a few times, we didn’t want to get them burned out,” Farmer said. “Practice every day with a two-week layoff would have just burnt them out, so they’ve had a good time, and (this week) it’s time to get back focused on baseball, since this is the week of south state.”

The Natchez 12s were guests of honor at a Mississippi Braves game last weekend, and got the opportunity to take the field with the Braves as part of the Field of Dreams experience, Farmer said. The team also played laser tag together last week.

“The key word in everything we did, is together,” Farmer said. “Together means a lot, because we’ve been doing all these things as a team, and I think it’s helped them. Today they will be even more unified.”

Farmer said the layoff was also good for his pitchers because they have logged a lot of innings so far this summer, and it gave them some time to rest.

This week it was back to business, however, for the 12s and Farmer said his team has worked hard to get ready for south state.

“They are ready and anxious,” Farmer said. “They are going to be prepared as far as practice, but you never know until they take the field.”

Farmer said his team has been doing well during practice. The main focus has been improving the team’s outfield play, he said.

“All these guys made All-Stars as infielders, pitchers or catchers,” Farmer said. “They are not all outfielders so it’s a little different out there trying to judge the ball.”

Farmer said he does not know much about Petal, other than they are a strong team historically and they will come out fired up to beat Natchez.

“Petal is traditionally a really good, well coached, team, and we have to bring our A-game, because when we get to south state everybody wants to beat Natchez,” he said. “We have a reputation.”

Farmer said another adjustment his team will have to make is playing in a 10-team, double-elimination format.

“It’s the biggest format we’ve played,” Farmer said.

The 10-team format will really have an effect on the Natchez pitchers.

“They’ll only get 13 innings per pitcher for the whole south state,” Farmer said. “So, we kind of have to throw more guys and fewer innings. Hopefully we can spread out the innings among a bunch of pitchers to get through the whole south state.”

Farmer said the team had three tough practices Monday through Wednesday and a light batting practice session Thursday. A majority of the team will head to Hattiesburg this morning for the 2 p.m. game.

“I just hope they come ready to play the first game, because if you get in the losers’ bracket it makes it tough,” Farmer said.

If Natchez beats Petal this afternoon they will face the winner of Moss Point and Perry County at 6 p.m. Saturday. If they lose they will play the loser of that game at 2 p.m. Saturday.