Clanton’s youth players chasing big dreams at World Series

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Clanton sent four teams to the 2023 All-American Youth Sports Alabama State Softball Tournaments from June 21-24, and one emerged to advance to the 2023 All-Star World Series.

The 6U Clanton All-Stars, which has five-and-six-year-old girls competing on it, entered the state tournament having won both of its pre-area tournaments in Clanton and Millbrook and the area tournament in Prattville. They were the number one ranked 6U team in the state going into the state tournament, and they showed why.

Clanton opened the state tournament on June 23 picking up two wins, the first a 16-6 triumph over the Florence All-Stars. Then, a 13-4 win over the Athens All-Stars. That sent Clanton into the deep rounds of the state tournament and a matchup with the West Mobile All-Stars, the top 6U team in the southern part of the state.

In the final inning, Clanton had the bases loaded and were trailing 14-12 with the 10th batter of the inning at the plate. In youth ball, when the 10th batter hits the ball all the catcher has to do is step on home plate and the inning is over.

Clanton hit the ball and forced an overthrow at home to score the first run, and the tying run was coming down the third-base line. However, the West Mobile catcher stepped on home plate before the run could score, and Clanton fell 14-13 and went to the third-place game.

“It was the most razor thin difference between the first and third place teams,” 6U Clanton All-Stars coach CJ Robinson said. “Six feet, and an interpretation of a rule when time is granted. Our girls were that good, and they were that competitive. I was skeptical about five-and-six-year-old girls and their ability to compete in an all-star type format, and these girls have completely blown me away. It is amazing, and we kept challenging and pushing them beyond what we thought their abilities were, and they keep rising to the occasion.”

Clanton faced off against the Hartselle All-Stars, the top 6U team in the northern portion of the state, in the third-place game to see who would move on to face West Mobile in the final. Clanton trailed 15-13 in the last inning and had two runners on base with two outs, but grounded out to end the game. However, Clanton did advance to the All-Star World Series by finishing in the top three.

Clanton’s two losses on June 24 were their first in bracket play during the all-star season.

“It is amazing to watch these girls grow,” Robinson said. “It has completely taken me back at how devoted these girls are, and the time and effort (they put in). Any shortfall we have had in any game is coaching, and those girls try so hard and they compete.”

Robinson said this is the most fun he has had playing or coaching, and he is proud of his players for learning to play the game the right way such as looking runners back to bases, backing up throws and hitting relays. He added that he describes to the team that they are the superheroes that are representing the Chilton County communities, like The Avengers, and the team really buys into that.

Robinson is joined by coaches Craig Headley, Brooke Sullivan, Brannon Johnson and Brianna Headley on the staff. The 6U Clanton All-Stars will begin their All-Star World Series journey on July 21 with the opening ceremonies in Brandon, Mississippi.