By David Grimes Thursday, August 02 2012 00:00
A group of 9 and 10-year-olds will be making a trip of the lifetime, as the Christiansburg All-Stars will be heading to Bartow, Florida to play in their first-ever Dixie AAA Baseball World Series. Christiansburg, who will represent Virginia, will play North Carolina at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"I was surprised that this is the first AAA team to win the state title and travel to the World Series. As a team we are proud of this accomplishment. Our goal in Christiansburg is to build strong youth athletic programs that will translate into strong middle school and high school programs," said head coach mark Sisson. "Each player and their parents are true Christiansburg Demons and we are confident that our work today will benefit our high school program in the future. This is the start of many years of productive baseball in Christiansburg."
Getting to the World Series was no easy task for these young men, after cruising through their first four games of the state tournament, outscoring their opponents 55-9, including a lopsided 19-2 win against Brunswick. Unbeaten Christiansburg would meet once-beaten Brunswick for the second time; this time Brunswick stunned Christiansburg, 7-6, to force a deciding game between these same two teams with the state title and a trip to Florida on the line.
In the state championship game, it appeared as Brunswick was heading South, as they scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take an 8-6 lead. However, Christiansburg battled back in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Then with MJ Hunter in scoring position, Garrett Kuchan smacked a two-out “walk-off” single to propel the Christiansburg All-Stars to a thrilling 9-8 come-from-behind win over Brunswick to earn their first-ever state title and a trip to Bartow, Florida.
When asked about their play in the states, coach Sisson said," The state tournament was very challenging. It is very difficult to remove young players from their homes and normal routine and expect them to adapt. During our first four games we cruised to easy victories against very good competition. It was amazing to see the level of talent from kids that are only 9 and 10 years old. As the tournament concluded, we faced a very good Brunswick team in the championship game. We faced some of the best pitching that we had seen to date and battled in our final two games. The first game Brunswick beat us by one run to force a showdown the following night. We escaped the championship game with a dramatic 9-8 victory."
When asked about having that clutch game-winning hit, Kuchan said with a big grin, "It felt great, because I hadn't been hitting that well." As for going to the World Series, he added, "This is one of the best experiences in my life."
Coach Sisson added, "After the dramatic ending to the championship game, every player and coach cried. I think that says it all."
The Christiansburg All-Stars roster include Jason Duffie- First Base/Pitcher, Garret Kuchan- Second, Brady Kirtner- Short/ Pitcher, Zalen Akers- Short/Pitcher, MJ Hunter- Third, Reagan Harris- Catcher, Dakota Sisson- Outfield, Tripp Compton-Outfield, Evan Robins-Outfield, Seth Walker- Outfield/Pitcher, Ryan Schultz- Outfield and Jake Clemons- Outfield. The team is coached by Mark Sisson, who is assisted by Phillip Lytton and Tim Akers.
"Most people do not realize how very young this team is. We have eight players that will be eligible for AAA 9-10 again next year, with only four players moving up after this season," added Sisson. "All current players are members of the New River Thunder travel organization and have been playing baseball since January this year. A mix of the players played on the 10u travel team and some played with the 9u team. I am confident that the competitive travel baseball season has developed these young players and has prepared them for the challenges."
What will it take to win the World Series? "To win the World Series we must have consistent pitching and we must be confident at the plate. We will face some of the best pitchers in the nation and we will need to score runs to win games. At this age fundamentals will determine winners and losers. We have worked hard on baseball fundamentals and hope that this carries into the World Series."
Coach Sisson further added, "Learning to win is easy, but learning to lose is most important. After a loss in the district tournament I met the players in right field and advised them, "Before you can be a winner you must first learn to lose". This is something that I have reminded them of over the past few weeks. Winning baseball games at this level is a great experience, but it is not everything. It is important for us to remember as coaches, parents and fans that these are 9-10 year old kids. The pressure to win at this level can be overwhelming and we need to be aware that there are more important lessons to learn. We focus on teaching good fundamental baseball, good sportsmanship, hard work and team work. No matter the outcome in Florida, these kids are winners and have learned numerous life lessons through this experience. Teaching kids these attributes should always be our focus."
Photo courtesy of Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Department
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