JP12U All-Stars takes third at Dixie Youth State Baseball Tournament

By virtue of two scintillating, late inning victories the Jackson Parish 12U All-Star baseball team earned a thrid place finish in the Dixie Youth State Baseball Tournament played in Buckeye, LA this past Friday thru Monday.

Several advantages that the youth of Jackson Parish has is that they get introduced to the sports of baseball and softball at a very young age through organized play in the Dixie Youth and Little League programs. Not only do they get to compete, they get to do so on modern, state of the art fields under the tutelage of knowledgeable coaches. Best of all, the top players from league play get to participate in district and if they get that far, state championship play, each year.

The result is that as they grow older, regardless of how talented they were when they started, the players get better. This was never more evident than through the impressive showing of the JP12U All-Star baseball team this past Friday thru Monday.

Years from now, the twelve players who made up the JP12U squad, most likely will probably have a hard time remembering who they played at the state tournament. They probably won’t be able to recall the exact scores of the games either. As you grow older, memories tend to fade.

What they will never forget is that by finishing third in the state, it marked the best result this group, many who has competed in All-Star play since they were seven years old, has ever achieved. They also won’t forget the journey it took to get to where they are now. The best part is the possibilities the future holds now that they have tasted a little success.

“Words can’t express how proud I am of these guys,” said head coach Steven Moak, who is a long time veteran of leading All-Star teams from Jackson Parish. “For them to finish third in the state is a great accomplishment.”

While naturally he wanted more for his guys, Moak expounded on how satifying the finish was.

“I have been with these guys for several years and remember how they used to struggle to even win at district when they first started playing,” recalled Moak, who started coaching this group when his son Conner was seven years old. “It is a great testament to the work they have put in, the support their parents have provided and the knowledge their league coaches have imparted.”

The state tourney started like so many have in the past for the “dandy dozen.” They lost to Blanchard by a 6-1 score. Then came two games that proved the kind of character these young men have and gave them a memory that will last forever.

First was an improbable four run, last inning rally that propelled them to an 8-7 victory over Vernon that kept them alive. Moak recalls the gamut of emotions he felt during the game.

“Talk about a roller coaster,” laughed Monk. “First we go up by three and then just like that we are down by four with only one inning to play. It looked like we were heading to another early exit at state, then to watch them refuse to die. They showed so much heart. Got to give credit to Keith (Caskey) and Colby (Hunt), – assistant coaches on the team – as they got the guys to keep their spirits up and believe they could still win.”

As good as the last ditch victory rally was, it fails in comparison to the exhlieration the next game brought. While it could be considered things looked bleak against Vernon, the locals were in a seemingly hopeless situation against Springhill, down 8-1 half way through the game. With their backs against the proverbial wall, the locals proved once again that “it ain’t over till it’s over” and scored 11 runs over the last three innings, highlighted by a walk off hit that propelled them back into the state title hunt.

“They showed so much heart,” Moak said emotionally. “We were dead and buried but they never quit believing in themselves. I will remember this one for a long time.”

The victory set up another showdown against the strong Blanchard squad for the right to play in the title game. The eventual state champs were simply to strong and won by a 13-0 margin. the loss in no way dampened the memories that the team will take away from the tourney.

“You have to take your hat off to Blanchard as they had the strongest team in the tournament,” said Moak. “They hit the ball well and they had a deep pitching staff. We can hold our heads high in knowing that the only games we lost was to the state champs.”

Blanchard 6 Jackson Parish 1: The eventual champs came out swinging heavy lumber to rush to a 6- 1 lead after three innings in the contest that saw Jackson Parish reach base only five times with three of those coming on walks. Jayden Mendenhall scored the only run for the locals.

Jackson Parish 8 Vernon Parish 7: How do you describe what it is to step up when it matters most? How about batting around in the final inning. Conner Moak, who reached base three times in the contest and scored the first run for the locals in the first inning, got the rally started. Jayden Mendenhall, Kyptin Caskey, Gunner Fontenot and Remi Upshaw followed suit by getting on and scoring, with Cail King, Emmanuel Hopkins and Deuce Thomas doing their part by driving runs in. Ayden Greer and Ridge Horton also pitched in by scoring in the second and third inning respectively.

Jackson Parish 12 Springhill 11: Five runs in the fourth inning brought JP12U to within one after falling behind by seven. Two more in the fifth got them back to within two after Springhill jumped back up by five with one inning to go setting up the walk off three run rally. Aylen Greer, Deuce Thomas and Conner Moak all reached consecutively, setting up Kyptin Caskey’s walk off infield single that ended it.

Down 8-1, it was Caskey that started the six run rally in the fourth. Like the game before suddenly everyone got hot at the same time again as Gunner Fontenot, Emmanuel Hopkins, Cail King, Remi Upshaw, Greer and Thomas all reached base with all but Upshaw scoring. In the fifth it was Fontenot that accounted for the two runs when he blasted a two run shot that scored Caskey ahead of him.

Blanchard 13 Jackson Parish 0: Maybe it was playing four games in four days. Maybe it was not having any gas left in the tank after the two incredibly emotional victories. Maybe it was just that Blanchard was simply to good to beat. Whatever the reason the last game against the state champs was much like the first as only Jayden Mendenhall, Cail King and Kyptin Caskey, who managed the feat twice, got on base.


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