11-year-old All-Stars come from loser's bracket to win it all
By By Michael S. Hill
There was a heat wave in Attalla this past weekend, but it wasn't entirely of natural causes. Atmore's 11-year-old baseball All-Stars used red-hot pitching to sear through the competition on the way to winning the Cal Ripken Baseball State Championship.
The win propelled Atmore into the Southeast Regionals, which will be held in Spartenburg, S.C., July 28-August 2.
Throughout the double-elimination tournament, in which Atmore went 4-1, the three-headed pitching monster of Joseph Drew, Jonathan McNeil and Skylar Rolin allowed a total of 13 runs on 13 hits, and eight of those runs came in the championship game against Colbert County.
Facing Colbert County for the third time in the tournament, Atmore used a couple of late runs to take the game and the state title with a 10-8 win.
In the top of the second inning, Atmore's Corey Flowers led off with a double and later scored on an Anthony Matthews single. Blake Pearson's lead-off single in the top of the third allowed him to score on a McNeil double to move Atmore out to a 2-0 lead. But Colbert County responded with three runs in the bottom half to regain the lead 3-2.
Atmore turned in a whopper of a fourth inning, hanging a six-spot on the scoreboard. Rolin and Matthews singled to jump-start the inning. Cody Norton doubled to score them both, giving Atmore the lead at 4-3. Ryan Chason followed up with another double to score Norton, and Pearson was hit by a pitch. Guyel Martin singled to score Chason, and later Pearson and Martin each scored to push Atmore ahead 8-3.
Colbert County scored one in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-4. Atmore added one in the top of the fifth to go up 9-4 before Colbert County roared back with four runs in the bottom half to close to within 9-8.
But Flowers led off the sixth with a triple and was brought home by Rolin's single to go up by the final of 10-8. And in the bottom half of the inning, Drew slammed the door on Colbert County, clinching a spot for Atmore in the regionals.
Atmore's path to the state title had but one bump along the way. After blasting Attalla 12-1 in their first game, Atmore bats were silenced against Colbert County in their first meeting, a 1-0 loss.
Even though Atmore tallied more hits in that game, a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth and final inning gave Colbert County the win.
The loss was especially tough for Drew and Rolin. They combined to pitch a perfect game through five-and-a-third innings. A sixth-inning double and the wild pitch allowed Colbert County to steal the victory.
But Atmore bounced back in the next game against Blount County in the loser's bracket. Atmore pitching again shone brightly as Drew, McNeil and Rolin shut Blount County out 3-0 while giving up just two hits.
Facing Colbert County for the second time in as many days, Atmore ripped through them for a 10-2 shellacking. Once again, Drew, McNeil and Rolin combined to pitch a solid game.
Atmore also had some outstanding performances throughout the tournament at the plate. McNeil went 11-16 with three triples, three doubles and 11 RBI. Rolin batted 7-14 with six RBI, while Flowers went 9-14 with four RBI.
The winner of the regionals will advance to play in the Cal Ripken World Series in Mattoon, Ill., scheduled for August 12-19.