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Young Bears settling into new positions

Players at small school baseball teams have to be more versatile, willing to play multiple defensive positions instead of focusing on one.

Todd Reece realized this fact in his first year as coach of Class 1A Billingsley after working as Class 5A Chilton County’s coach last year, but a few Bears finding a home in the field has propelled the team to a berth in the state playoffs Friday.

“I don’t know that I have a single player out of the 14 that participate on varsity that has played only one or two positions,” Reece said, but freshman Forrest Ousley at second base and eighth grader Dalton Ackerman at shortstop have become the closest things to defensive fixtures Billingsley can claim.

The structure has allowed the youngsters to focus on other aspects of their games.

“I think that helps him at the plate,” Reece said about Ousley. “He doesn’t have to wonder if he’s going to play outfield today or infield.”

Ousley has responded by producing a batting average over .500 for the season and an on-base percentage better than .700. Ackerman, meanwhile, has one of the team’s two home runs.

Ousley’s and Ackerman’s emergence has also allowed ace pitcher Wes Lawrence, who was sharing time at shortstop to begin the year, to become comfortable in center field when he’s not on the mound.

The Bears (9-9, 2-2 region) will put their improved defense up the middle on display when they visit Class 1A No. 3 Holy Spirit for a best-of-three series beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.

The teams would play the decisive game three at noon Saturday if necessary.