Governor’s Cup readies for second weekend

Published 11:25 am Thursday, August 2, 2012

When the Governor’s Cup resumes this weekend, teams in odd-numbered age groups — 7-, 9-, 11- and 13-year-olds — will take the field for three days of games.

Not every team falls into those age groups, however.

The Vicksburg Billies, who finished as runners-up in last week’s 10-year-olds’ tournament, are among several teams that will “play up,” or compete in an older age group than the one they typically participate in.

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Billies coach Tim Shelton said playing against the 11-year-olds this weekend is a way for his team to prepare for next season, as well as see what he hopes will be more skilled competition.

“Each year, the game changes a little bit. We’ll see how effective our three pitchers are going to be at the new distance and how our catchers will do,” Shelton said. “We’ll see where we are as a team. It gives us insight for next year, and what skills we need to improve on.”

Although playing up is more challenging for young teams, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll struggle. The Billies won an 11-year-olds’ tournament earlier this year. The Mississippi Jammers, a 7-year-olds’ team, finished second in the 8-year-olds’ Governor’s Cup last weekend.

The Jammers, who have a 54-15 record this summer, will play in the 7-year-olds’ Governor’s Cup bracket this week. The Jammers are one of only two USSSA AAA-level 7-year-olds’ teams in central Mississippi. Coach Randy Wright said playing against 8-year-olds is a useful tool to help his team improve.

“With my team especially, we really dominated most of the 7-year-olds’ teams. It makes us play harder and compete. Playing up against 8-year-olds is what we needed,” Wright said. “Playing up is the best way to make us better.”

In addition to the odd-numbered age groups, there will be a four-team, 8-year-olds’ kid pitch tournament at the Governor’s Cup on Saturday and Sunday. A total of 35 teams will participate across all five age groups, bringing the total for this year’s tournament to 82 teams. Fifty registered for last week’s games, but three dropped out on Friday night.

Seven of the 35 teams are from Louisiana, and a dozen teams from that state played at Halls Ferry Park last week. Shelton said he believes the large number of Louisiana teams stems from the end of the traditional tournament season, as well as the Governor’s Cup’s “open” format. Teams are allowed to use players from all areas, instead of being confined to a specific town, county or parish.

“It gives them an opportunity, since it’s an open tournament, to grab a few kids and put a team together or just bring their team they’ve been playing with,” Shelton said. “You get in a rut when you’re playing locally. At the Governor’s Cup, there’s no telling who you’re going to run into.”