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Busy weekend for youth baseball

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The Heard County Parks & Recreation Complex was hopping over the weekend.

The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Belt Bash tournament was held in Heard County on Saturday and Sunday, with dozens of baseball teams participating.

Among the teams competing were the Game On Stars, a LaGrange-based team that went 3-1 in the 10-and-under division.

With baseball facilities re-opening in recent weeks, travel teams have been able to resume their seasons that were interrupted in March.

The Game On team, which includes players from LaGrange, Heard County and Phenix City, has played in tournaments the past two weekends.

After participating in a tournament in Rome two weekends ago, the Stars enjoyed a successful stay in the two-day tournament in Heard County.

On Saturday, the Stars beat the Rip City Rangers 13-3, and the SYB Coweta Tribe 10-2.

Sawyer Moss hit two home runs on the day, and Riley Cockrell had one home run.

The Stars returned to the field on Sunday and blanked the West Georgia Bombers 17-0 before falling to eventual tournament champion D3 Nunnally 15-8.

Game On head coach Nick Burns said everyone is happy to be back together following the extended absence.

“It really is like a family,” Burns said. “You choose who you spend your time with, and we have such a great group of parents. We work the players hard, and our expectations are very high from an effort and discipline standpoint. The parents like that.”

The idea, Burns said, is to “instill success principles that will help them if they work for a newspaper, or if they sell insurance, or if they’re a high-school teacher.”

The Stars were well into their season when everything was shut down in March.  Practice resumed about a month before the tournament in Rome.

“When we found out we were going to be able to play, we started practicing two days a week,” Burns said. “We were able to get four weeks of practice in. We were really conscious about their arms. We started with 25-pitch bullpens, and we worked our way up to 50-pitch bullpens before we played. Our goal is to make sure their arms are healthy. We’re very conscious about their arms. We don’t like to go over the 75-pitch limit in a game anyway. We’re very concerned about their arm strength. The other part of that was getting the timing back on their hitting. We did a lot of hitting drills.”

The Stars will play in a tournament in Dacula this weekend, and after taking two weeks off, they’ll play in two more tournaments before the summer season ends.

Another team with a handful of Troup County players, EAB Valley, finished second in the 12-and-under division in Heard County.

Mike Meadows, the team’s head coach, said he “was very pleased with the way our guys played. To come in second place in the gold bracket, I was very proud of them.”

The team was preparing for its first tournament in March when everything was shut down, and after nearly three months the players and coaches were able to get together again.

“It was a relief to get to do something that everybody enjoys,” Meadows said. “We’ve been practicing a little bit the last few weeks. We were able to practice at the Valley Sportsplex, and we’ve got the indoor facility in Lanett that we’ve been able to use. They’re glad to be back with some type of normalcy.”

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