Host UC believes it’s tested for battle

Host UC believes it’s tested for battle
Don’t count Union City out of the Cal Ripken Rookie League Southeast Regional that began this morning and runs through Sunday.
The local team — coached by John Rogers, Pat Hogan and Randall Webb — has been practicing together since the end of May and according to Rogers, they are ready for the competition against the best that the Southeast has to offer.
“We know we are playing against a few teams that have been together since T-ball in this tournament, but our motto has been to not quit, regardless of the circumstances,” Rogers said. “We’ve been down 6-0 after half an inning this postseason and came back to win that game, so we believe we are battle-tested.”
The team has posted a 10-4 record in tournament play this summer with a fourth-place finish in the Cal Ripken District Tournament and a third-place trophy earned in the State Tournament despite having five 7-year-olds and one 6-year-old on the team.
The UC youngsters took to the field this morning at 11:30 against Franklin and they battle Jacksonville Beach, Fla., this evening at 7. On Friday, the locals take to the field at 9 a.m. to take on Tillman’s Corner, Ala., and they also hit the sandlot at 6 p.m to close out pool play against Buckhead, Ga.
Should the Purple-and-Gold clad team place in the top three of the National Division, they would begin tournament play on Saturday. The championship of the event is set for Sunday at 3 p.m.
On the field, Union City is led offensively by one of those 7-year-olds in the person of Miles Odle, who fields the pitcher position beside the pitching machine. Odle is the team’s top run batted in man through summer competition.
Strapping on the chest protector and catcher’s mask behind the plate is Jeffrey Donnell. Though not fielding pitches from a human hurler, Donnell is still an integral part of his team as the last defense to preventing a run from scoring on a batted ball.
Around the infield, Holden King is at first base, Austin Jernigan plays second, Braxton Waddell fields third and Trajen Wood is the shortstop.
And with the high level of ground balls expected in Rookie League play, Rogers knows his infield is an important component if the UC team is to be successful.
“They’re our first line of defense and we are really going to depend on them,” Rogers said. “Every team is going to be able to hit the ball in the tournament, so it all comes down to who plays the field and catches the ball better.”
In the outfield, Rogers will have the luxury of having four outfielders, thanks to the rules of the Cal Ripken League. Patrolling the grass is the quartet of Ashton Webb, Ben Tucker, Austin Atwill and Kentravious Craig.
Webb leads the team in triples and Rogers is confident that his group of outfielders can get the job done and be pulled into the infield if needed.
Meanwhile, on the bench, the Union City team will have Wilton Wade, Will Hogan, Preston Little and Matthew Sherrill to all come in should their teammates leave the game and get out of the heat.
Little is the team’s lone 6-year-old and he has been playing up all season rather than being in T-ball.
Hogan is one of the team’s 7-year-olds along with the aforementioned King, Odle, Wood and Atwill.
“We’ve got some young players who have played up all year,” Rogers boasted. “I wouldn’t hesitate or think twice about putting them in a game if needed despite the fact that they are younger than many of their opponents.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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