Natchez 7’s headed to State

Published 12:04 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

NATCHEZ — Ryan Marchbanks knew he had something special last year, it was just a matter of getting it all together.

After Natchez Dixie Youth saw two all-star teams finish third and fourth in the state tournament in the T-ball division last season, Marchbanks knew this year’s 7-year-old all-star team had the potential to be something special.

“What we did in the offseason was identify who all we wanted so that way we could stick with one core group instead of having two teams,” said Marchbanks, who is the head coach of the 7-year-old team. “The numbers happened to be down and we have just one all-star team with kids that have been playing together. Now, we are a solid group.”

Email newsletter signup

The team is undefeated, and after rolling through their district tournament, they are heading to the state tournament July 10-14 in Cleveland, Miss.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Marchbanks said. “I want to win state and go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the World Series. That is my goal.”

The team was rarely tested in the district tournament outscoring their opponents 57-17.

“We are undefeated,” Marchbanks said. “The tournament was in McComb and in our first game against the Brookhaven Americans we won 16-0. We had a bye in the second game and then in the third game we played the McComb Nationals and beat them 12-8.”

The McComb contest was the closest of the tournament, and ended up being fuel for Natchez later on.

“In the third game we played the Brookhaven Nationals and beat them 14-4 and that led us to the championship game,” Marchbanks said. “We played the McComb Nationals again and it was a nice way to go out. The McComb newspaper put out an article and their coach said they were hands down the better team and there was no way Natchez would beat them twice in a row. But, we showed up, won 15-5 and took the championship. It was icing on the cake.”

While most young teams hope to win games in a shootout, by scoring a large amount of runs, Marchbanks’ team prides itself on defense.

“Our defense is our biggest asset,” Marchbanks said. “This isn’t a group that is going to hit a bunch of balls to the fence. We stress defense and driving hard ground balls on offense. If the defense isn’t capable, we’ll keep pounding them.”

Another key factor to the team’s success has been their outfield defense.

“At 7 years old, it is still hard to catch pop flies,” Marchbanks said. “That is one challenge we face as coaches and one thing we work hardest on, but out of our 12 players, nine can consistently catch a high pop up. Our defense is how we win games.”

Although his team will be taking the big stage in the state tournament, Marchbanks said he isn’t too worried about the kids getting distracted by the environment.

“I have to give some accolades to our parents and coaching staff,” Marchbanks said. “We don’t really get involved with all that crazy stuff. Last year we got a sportsmanship award, and that is a direct reflection of the way our parents and players act on and off the field. We can expect a similar situation at state.”

If his team was to reach Myrtle Beach for the World Series, Marchbanks said it would be the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“It is a pie in the sky situation, but I have all the faith in the world,” he said. “It has been a trying to years and you are dealing with six and seven year old kids, but our kids, I must say, are so far above and beyond the average seven year old player.”