Critters have eye on Dizzy Dean series title

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2001

The Culkin Critters celebrate with the Dizzy Dean 12-year-olds’ state championsip in Starkville. Second from right is Hayden Hales, who was 11-of-15 for the state tournament.

[07/19/01] The Culkin Critters dominated their district and state tournaments, so coaches don’t see any reason they can’t do the same at the Dizzy Dean World Series, which starts this weekend in Oak Grove.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, these kids have the experience,” Critters assistant Joe Tarnabine said. “You have to have been there, traveling and playing on the road … these kids have done that. They stay calm, cool and collected and do their jobs.”

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Brackets for the 16-team series won’t be drawn until Friday at a coaches’ meeting, so the Critters don’t know who they will play first. No matter who it is, it’s doubtful that team will have more experience than the 12-year-olds from Culkin.

They’ve played together since they were 8 and Bubba Mims has been their head coach since they were 9. Last year, they won the state championship and finished sixth in the world series after being dropped to the losers’ bracket by eventual champion Baton Rouge in the opener.

In the postseason this year, they’ve gone 9-0, winning five of their last seven by the 10-run rule. They scored in double figures in seven of their games.

“Seven of them are going to Porters Chapel, so they’re on a conditioning program,” head coach Bubba Mims said. “I think that’s helped.”

Hayden Hales led the Critters in the state tournament, going 11-for-15 to hit a scorching .733. As a team, the Critters batted .490. Cole Smith batted .538, Michael Busby (.500), Eric Richards and Kyle Calhoun (.417) and Spencer Carney and Tyler Wells (.400).

On the mound, Smith, Richards and Busby have combined for a 0.77 ERA in the last 23 innings while holding opponents to a .195 average.

On defense, Ferguson and Calhoun have saved some runs with their outfield play and catcher Wells threw out seven runners trying to steal in the state tournament.

“They’re the best team I’ve seen all the way around in 18 years of coaching,” said Tarnabine, who also coached several players on Warren Central’s Class 5A state championship team this year. “The high school coaches around here have a lot to look forward to.”