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Smarts over size: 17U all-stars hope to have small ball on their side at state tourney

Matthew Freeman’s Louisiana Purple Sox 17U all-star team is ready to play small ball — literally and figuratively.

Freeman said since his group of players doesn’t have the most power he’s ever seen, they will be forced to think a little smarter than their opponents this weekend at the Dixie Pre-Majors State Tournament in New Orleans.

“I don’t coach but four of these kids regularly, so what they do with their high schools is not my business,” Freeman said. “I’m sure they know how to bunt, hit and run and all that.

“Now my job is I’ve got about a week to get them on the same page as me. It’ll be a fun challenge to get all the signs down so we can manage the game.”

While making sure Freeman has everyone accounted for, he said the biggest advantage is the other version of his “small ball.”

In a region like the Miss-Lou, Freeman’s Vidalia team will be one of the smallest area’s to pool a team in the tournament.

“This is summer ball. They don’t have to be out here. They are here because they want to be,” Freeman said. “Any chance to be out here playing ball and winning games is a good thing.”

The Purple Sox will face possibly one of the best teams in the tournament in their first game at 6 p.m. Saturday when they play JPRD East — one of two teams from the New Orleans area.

While assistant coach Tanner Martin said JPRD East likely had more than 1,000 players to choose from, the Purple Sox had about 30 who play against each other during the year rather than with each other.

“It builds up from friendly competition,” Martin said. “They get to know each other, but they don’t get to know each other like friends. The hardest part is building some kind of chemistry.”

Another thing Martin said the Purple Sox have on their side is speed, which should aid them in their more meticulous style of play.

“We don’t have any slow people on this team,” he said. “We all can run the bases, and we all can steal. Like we said with our small ball, we will be able to take advantage of that.”

No matter what happens this weekend, Freeman said his team will stick together.

“This is for them to get exposure and let college coaches see them,” Freeman said. “Hopefully they catch someone’s eye and get to move on to the next level.”

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