Young, scrappy WH ready to start regional


The White Hall Babe Ruth 14-and-under baseball team has played just four games together this season.

Those four games just so happened to be four wins as the team went through undefeated to claim the South Arkansas state tournament championship last week.

This weekend the team will look to continue the success in the Southwest Regional tournament in Weimar, Texas. The eight-team tournament features four teams from Texas, two from Arkansas and one each from Louisiana and Mississippi.

“Our team is a real young team,” manager Jeff Johnson said. “We have eight 13-year-olds and four 14-year-olds. We have a really scrappy group that just outplayed everybody at state, because they fought hard. We just find ways to win.

“They just don’t give up.”

White Hall will open the double-elimination tournament against New Iberia, Louisiana, at 4 p.m. Friday. A win would see them play at 1 p.m. Saturday, while a loss on Friday would force them into a loser’s bracket game at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s very important to win that first game,” Johnson said. “It keeps you out of the losers’ bracket, but it also helps you build momentum for your team. Winning that first game also keeps you from playing more games.

“The fewer games you have to win, the better your chances, especially with the heat they’re expecting this weekend.”

With the talent level at the regional tournament, Johnson said he and hitting coach Buddy Owen feel White Hall hitting should be strong this weekend.

“We have kids on our team that the better the pitching the better the hitting,” he said. “And that is credit to pitching coach Ray Harbison and the way he throws batting practice.

“When these kids are hitting, they hit for average. All of them can hit and we won’t hesitate to have any of them hit.”

Even with the hitting regimen the squad has, Johnson believes his team’s strength is its defense.

“The most scored on us in the state tournament was four runs,” he said. “Usually if your defense plays well, you win ballgames.”

Johnson said his team has talent on the mound, too, and, if need be, he would feel confident sending out at least eight of his players to the hill this weekend. In just terms of pure basseball talent, Johnson said he thinks his players could make some noise when they eventually reach the high school level.

“I expect great things when they move on to high school ball,” he said. “They’ve got the talent to go a long way.”

Johnson thinks the same could be said for this weekend.

“I set my expectations high,” he said of the tournament. “I don’t expect them to win it, but I do expect us to be competitive. I definitely think we can win it, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if we didn’t.

“As long as they play up to their ability, I’ll be fine.”