Vicksburg BlueJays win state tournament

Published 9:34 am Thursday, June 25, 2015

STATE CHAMPS: The Vicksburg BlueJays 13 and under team won the Mississippi USSSA AA State Championship.

STATE CHAMPS: The Vicksburg BlueJays 13 and under team won the Mississippi USSSA AA State Championship.

Winning any type of tournament or championship takes dedication and trust from coaches and players. The Vicksburg BlueJays possess those qualities, which lead them to win the 2015 Mississippi USSSA 13 and under AA State Championship Sunday.

“I’m just excited it all happened the way it did. Watching those boys play for so long and how hard they work, they deserved it,” said Nathan Karel, former coach of the BlueJays.

The state tournament had 21 teams start off by playing two pool games. The BlueJays lost their first pool game but won their second game 5-4, after being down 4-3 in the bottom on of the last inning. The team played three games on Sunday against equally matched teams before walking away with the trophy.

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“It seemed like everything clicked together at the right time,” Karel said. “We got in the groove hitting, had good pitching and played good defense.”

Overall, the BlueJays had a good season. In the first part of the year they played a lot of open tournaments, where higher-level teams can be mixed with lower level teams.

Karel said a lot of teams have tryouts and get different players every year. The BlueJays have done a good job of keeping the core together. He thinks having the same nucleus, opposed to adjusting and learning to play with new players, was an advantage for them this season.

“A lot of the teams we play can have the best player in an 80 mile radius,” Karel said. “We have homegrown kids from Vicksburg.”

In the past five tournaments for the team, they’ve won three. The last two tournaments they went 9-1, scored 75 runs and allowed 27 in the final two games.

Karel helped form the team eight years ago. Only two from the original team still play but majority have been on the team for five or six years.

His favorite parts of being around the players is their sense of humor and they all get along with each other.

“When we walk in the fence they all have the same goal, and when we leave they’re all ready to joke again.”

The BlueJays started out as an all-star team and after playing the first few all-star tournaments, Karel saw the boys enjoy it and how they wanted to play more. An all-star team can only play a few tournaments in a year, so they transitioned to a traveling team.

He coached the team for the first five years, was succeeded by Michael Busby and Eric Douglass is currently the head coach.

The players look up to Douglass and Busby, who played high school ball locally and have played college baseball for Hinds, Mississippi State and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“It’s just their knowledge of the game,” Karel said “When they were in high school they were good ball players and being a young kid, they really look up to them and hope to be in their shoes one day.”

Karel said the players are hardworking, coachable and with as much as they do in tournaments, it shows they have a true dedication and love for the game. The most important things he tries to instill in his players are how to play together as a team and pushing through hard times.

“Baseball is full of failures so you have to learn how to hold you head high,” Karel said. “I think baseball is teaching them a lot.”