The Natchez Americans defeat Nationals in district tournament finale
Published 12:02 am Tuesday, June 17, 2014
NATCHEZ — Index fingers were raised and the Natchez Americans’ tee ball team forced mean faces in unison after they ran the district tournament gauntlet unscathed and defeated the Natchez Nationals 27-19 at Carroll-Jones Field Monday night.
“Put up your ‘we’re No. 1’ fingers,’” proud parents instructed, as they took pictures of their kids with the first place trophy. “Ok, now put on your mean, serious faces.”
Despite the outcome of Monday’s All-Natchez district tournament finale, the Natchez Nationals and Americans were headed to the state tournament in Purvis June 27 no matter what, as the top two teams of the five participating in the tournament were guaranteed a spot. Reaching the finals sealed each team’s fate. So heading into Monday night’s contest, John Sullivan was hoping his Nationals team could pull off the victory. Though they came up short, he was pleased to see so many fans in the stands cheering on both ball clubs.
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“That’s baseball,” Sullivan said. “It’s just good competition, and it was fun, wasn’t it? A great crowd and great kids brought the town together. It’d be nice for us two teams to end the same way over there at state. Hopefully, it’s a little different with us on top.”
The Americans’ Tripp Wimberly was awarded the game ball by head coach Ryan Marchbanks following the victory, and he excitedly tossed it in the air as more and more parents took photos on the field.
In the top of the sixth inning and in the last inning played, Wimberly recorded the game-ending hit for the Americans to put them up by eight runs. The game concluded because a team can only score seven runs per inning, therefore eliminating a possibility of a Nationals’ comeback.
“I had fun getting to third base and catching all the baseballs,” Wimberly said.
The Nationals had command of the game early on, going ahead 12-10 in the second inning. However, some nice defensive plays by Triston Fondren, including a diving catch off of the mound, gave the Nationals two straight outs to start the third. The Nationals would be scoreless in the third, and the momentum shifted. The Nationals outscored the Americans 10-7 in the next two innings, and a 5-run sixth sealed the game’s fate.
A quiet Fondren wouldn’t share his secret to making great grabs from the mound.
“I just play,” Fondren said.
Marchbanks, who coached Fondren for three years, gave props to his young pitcher for the diving catch.
“His reactions and reflexes on the mound are unmatched by anybody,” Marchbanks said. “I don’t think I have as fast a reaction time as he has.”
After the game was over, each team wore smiles and held their own separate trophies, as the coaches huddled both teams around home plate and praised their effort.
“These are a great group of kids,” Marchbanks said. “Both teams are very good, and anything can happen when these two teams meet. They’ll both represent Natchez well in the state tournament.”