Last Modified: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 1:12 PMWACO, Texas— 200 feet at a time.
That has been the team motto for the South Lake Charles All-Stars since they arrived in town for the Southwest Regional Little League tournament. Following a 12-2 victory over Arkansas Monday night, the team is about to take the most important step of the next 200 feet.
SLC finished play in Pool A play as the top-seeded team with a 3-0 record and will face Texas East (Lufkin) at 4 p.m. today in a semifinal game. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Texas East (2-1) defeated Colorado 6-1 to advance as the Pool B runner-up. Texas West (3-0), from San Antonio McAllister Park, will play New Mexico (2-1) in the other semifinal.
Bryan Lawrence and Kirkland Banks got the Louisiana offense ignited in the bottom of the first inning. Following a lead-off single by Nate Briscoe, Lawrence tripled to deep right center. Banks followed with a massive blast to deep left field giving SLC a 3-0 lead. Elwayne Carrier added an RBI single and SLC went to the dugout with a 4-0 one inning advantage. SLC put the game away in the bottom of the third. After loading the bases without recording an out, an RBI single by Mark Johnston, a 2-run RBI single by Parker Belaire, and an RBI single by Briscoe opened up a 9-0 lead. Cade Pierson added a two-run RBI single in the bottom of the fifth and then scored on a Dyami Huntsberry single to complete the SLC slugfest and give SLC its third straight mercy-rule win.
Left-hander Huntsberry started the game for Louisiana. He pitched two innings for the win, did not allow a hit and walked one batter. He needed only four pitches to get out of the second inning. Cade Pierson followed in relief and needed seven pitches to retire Arkansas in the top of the third inning. Arkansas starting pitcher Dutton Day ruined the shut-out with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the third. It was the first runs the Louisiana pitching staffed has allowed in the tournament.
Two more victories for the Louisiana team and it will represent the Southwest region for the third time since the tournament first started in 2002. SLC represented the region in the Little League World Series held in Williamsport, Pa. in 2006 and 2008.
“This game is the most important game we will play, everything up to this point; district, state, these three regional games, all mean nothing right now,” said team manager Fat Cat Joubert. “I told the team now is the time to step it up, it is do or die time. This team idolizes the guys that went in 2008, and that is keeping them focused and keeping them humble.”
Louisiana will start Logan Guillory, the winner of the opening game of the tournament, against Texas East. The choice to start Guillory was an easy one for Joubert.
“He is my most poised, most even keeled pitcher that I have; he won’t let the nerves get to him,” said Joubert. “We are of the mindset that if we play the next pitch the best we can play, and we continue to play the way we can play, tomorrow takes care of itself.”
SLC dominated in each phase of the opening round games, outscoring the state champions of New Mexico, Mississippi and Arkansas by a combined score of 37-2. Louisiana scored at least two runs in every inning of the tournament except the second and fourth innings against Arkansas. The team’s success, according to Joubert, hasn’t been based solely on the on-field talent of the players alone. The team make-up, combined with an earlier loss to Lafayette in the state tournament, has his team focused, yet not overly confident.
“To sit back and watch these kids come together has been the best part so far; to be there for each other on and off the field has been remarkable to watch. The team has chemistry, works hard, and really puts the team ahead of everything else. They have jelled at the right time,” said Joubert.
“The loss to Lafayette was a real eye opener for us, it was a major stepping stone,” said Joubert. “It showed us that we can be beat, brought us back down to earth a little, and showed us what can happen when we don’t play our game. That loss has been more important for this team than any of our wins.”