By Tim Chambers
Little League baseball is all about changes and Johnson County found that out in the 9-to-11-year-old All-Star tournament played at Daniel Boone over the weekend.
Johnson County was scheduled to play Johnson City Majors on Friday at 8:30, a game they felt pretty good about. But that would change upon their arrival.
The opponent was now the superior Johnson City American Little League All-Stars after the Majors dropped out of the tournament. And nobody from Johnson County was notified.
Change can be good sometimes but not in the case for our local team.
The All-Stars have consisted of the following age groups in past years; (7-8), (9-10), (11) and (11-12). Johnson County had to pull heavily from its 9-10 squad to field a team in the now (9-11) squad.
This created the bulk of the squad competing against an older age group from Johnson City.
The Johnson City Little League is made up of three Little Leagues, American, National and Majors. They all take part in inner league play during the regular season with the American League playing a 24-game schedule.
The majority of kids from all leagues play travel ball on the weekend. That allows players from those leagues to participate in more than 50 games by the time All-Stars roll around.
Now let’s rewind.
Johnson County managed to play about 15 games including a season-ending tournament. The league consisted of only five teams in the major division and very few of our kids play travel ball.
This reporter applauds the kids from Johnson County and the coaches for their dedication to the sport. You have to play against a high level of completion in order to get better.
The teams from Johnson City and Bristol do that.
The Longhorns were defeated by Johnson City Americans on Friday and Bristol on Saturday.
Ethan Reece had the only hit, a towering double against the Americans. The locals managed only three hits on Saturday. George Grill had a pair of hits while Graham Reece collected the other one.
Ace pitcher Conner Icenhour injured the finger on his throwing hand prior to the tournament and was far from 100 percent. The duo of Chris Reece and Ethan Reece threw well despite the lopsided losses.
“We cut our strikeouts down from nine on the first night to five on Saturday,” said manager Brad Reece. “It was all about trying to get better because we knew that both teams were strong.”
Johnson County got a couple of spectacular catches in the outfield. Carter Rhudy had a web gem on Friday in centerfield and Carson Jennings provided one in right field on Saturday. Ezra Howard was a vacuum at third base against Bristol.
“Johnson City’s entire team was eleven but our kids played hard the entire tournament,” said Reece. “Our kids never quit. They were just a more seasoned team than we were. We couldn’t have gotten in a tougher bracket but all these kids were a joy to coach.”