State Champions!: Atmore's 16-18-year-olds take title
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
When Coach Steve McGill first met with his Babe Ruth's 16-18-year-old youth league this summer, he stressed the importance of coming together and playing as a team and the group rode that philosophy all the way to the Babe Ruth state championship.
After defeating Covington County in the district tournament, the Atmore team traveled to the state tourney in Attalla where they won three straight, including two against Bay Minette, to advance to the Southeast Regionals in Mobile where they will face the champions from Tennessee.
With an overall season record of 14-3, McGill said the team played like champions all season despite its members coming from three different schools.
McGill felt so strongly about the team concept that he made sure his players wore the same clothes so no one stood out. Throughout the season, McGill said his team adopted the philosophy and exceeded his expectations.
The team, which was sponsored by Huxford Pole and Timber, got things going in the first round of the state tourney with a one-run victory over Bay Minette, 5-4.
The teams had battled to a 2-2 tie by the third inning. The score remained until the fifth when Bay Minette brought two runners around to give them a 4-2 advantage.
Atmore was down to their final at-bat in the seventh inning when they got their offense going again. Jared Carlton led off the inning with a dribbler down the third base line and he slid safely into first base for a single. Mark Rodgers followed with a sacrifice bunt. However, in an attempt to make a double play, Bay Minette was late at both bases, giving Atmore runners at first and second with no outs. Traveis Guy followed with a single to load the bases. Rob Mosley came through with a double to score Carlton and Guy which tied the game at 4-4. With runners at second and third, McGill said he gave his next hitter, Keith Bell, one chance to swing away before attempting a squeeze. But, the squeeze was not necessary as Bell hit the first pitch for a game-winning single down the first base line.
Chase McGhee pitched seven strong innings and gave up only five hits.
Atmore cruised in the second game as they shut out Huntsville, 10-0.
Atmore scored six runs in the first, three in the second and another in the fourth.
The decisive victory was perfect for Atmore as McGill was able to set his pitching rotation for the championship game on Sunday.
Matt Woods was the starter and pitched two innings, Mosley pitched two innings and Adam Young struck out the side to complete the game.
After Bay Minette defeated Huntsville, the championship game was set.
Bay Minette jumped out to the first lead as they scored a run in the bottom of the second inning.
Atmore jumped on top in the top of the third with two runs, 2-1.
Once again, Bay Minette managed to tie the game with a run in the bottom of the third.
Neither team scored until Atmore scored two in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 advantage. But, Bay Minette cut the lead to only one, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth.
Atmore failed to score in the top of the second, but was only three outs away from the championship.
McGill went with Woods to start the game and he recorded a strikeout for the first out of the inning. But, a walk followed by a single forced McGill to go to his bullpen.
With runners at first and second, Young got the call to get the final two outs. The first batter he faced hit a hard grounder toward third base where John Rehorn picked fielded it cleanly, stepped on third and threw to first for a game-ending double play.
McGill said he was fortunate to have players from the local high schools playing on the team. He is especially grateful to ECHS coach Keith Nall, who coached a majority of McGhee's team during the high school season.
McGill said he was proud of how his team performed n both on and off the field.
Members of the 16-18-year-old team are: Keith Bell, Adam Bolen, Jared Carlton, Traveis Guy, Brandon James, Dustin Kelley, Chase McGhee, Rob Mosley, Richard Pearson, Mark Rodgers, John Rehorn, Sir Williams, Matt Woods and Adam Young.
Atmore will face the Tennessee champions on Friday, July 27, 1 p.m. at Theodore Park in Mobile. The winner of the regional travels to Virginia for the Babe Ruth World Series.