Natchez 12s look to defeat old nemesis in opening game Saturday

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 6, 2012

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Natchez 12-year-old All Star shortstop Joshua Day stretches to catch the ball during practice Thursday afternoon in Duncan Park. The Natchez 12s will play the opener of its sub-district tournament against Brookhaven Saturday.

NATCHEZ — Last year, it was the Brookhaven Dixie Youth All-Stars that eliminated the Natchez 11-year-old All-Stars from postseason play.

Now a year older, the Natchez Dixie Youth 12-year-old All-Stars are looking to get past Brookhaven — and do even more.

The 12s begin postseason play Saturday against Brookhaven, and head coach Cole Brown said his players have learned a lot in a year’s time since getting beaten.

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“This is essentially the same group of kids,” Brown said. “Our first game is against them, and I told the players that we’re not just playing to avenge our loss, but we’re playing for Natchez.”

Brown said for most of his players, this will be the last year they’re allowed to take part in Dixie Youth, so he wants them to go out with good memories.

“We have all the players in place to make a good run,” Brown said. “All the skills are there. We just have to have the right mindset. We’ll be on a foreign field in 98-degree heat, and if we’re not ready for the little things, that will do us in.”

Pitchers Marshall Edmonds and Joshua Day were named team captains, and both of them said they realized how the rest of the players would look to them for leadership. In Edmonds’ case, he said he wants to put last year’s loss behind him.

“It was really adrenaline-pumping,” Edmonds recalled. “I didn’t know what would happen. I thought we’d get the double play, but two errors ended it for us.”

And Edmonds said he hasn’t forgotten the feelings he felt after Brookhaven eliminated Natchez.

“I felt like I should’ve done better, like I could’ve done better,” Edmonds said.

As for what it’s going to take to win, Edmonds said it would come down to having a lot of heart.

“You need to have a lot of want for the ball,” Edmonds said. “You have to want to make the play. You can’t be scared of the ball, and I think we were last year. I think we all could have done better.”

But Edmonds said he expects different results this year.

“We’ve improved a lot this year, and I think we have a lot more heart,” Edmonds said.

Day said the team’s goals are threefold: beat Brookhaven, make it to state and then make it to the Dixie Youth World Series.

“Our goal is to get back at Brookhaven, because they beat us last year,” Day said.

Day said he feels like he and Edmonds will be the go-to guys the rest of the players look to for leadership on the field.

“They assigned me and Marshall as team captains, so we have to lead the team,” Day said.

As he puts the finishing touches on his team before Saturday, Brown said no stone would go unturned as far as preparation.

“We’ll be out here until 10 (at night) if we do things wrong,” Brown said.

At the same time, Brown said he doesn’t want things to get to the point where the players aren’t enjoying themselves.

“At this age, we want them to get better, but we also want them to have fun,” Brown said. “If they haven’t gotten better, than I haven’t done my job. But most of all, they should be having fun still.”