DOTHAN, Ala. - The first ever Dixie Boys Future Stars Tournament, held at the new Miracle Field Complex, finished play Sunday, proving that more than likely it will be an annual event based on the turnout.
In a tournament composed of the best players (ages 13-14) representing their respective positions, athletes from 11 different states on four all-star teams - East Stars, West Stars, South Stars and Wiregrass Stars - competed in round robin bracket action, using a wooden bat format.
Three of the six players from Georgia represented the Newton County Recreation Commission, including Bowen Braswell (Alcovy High), Dusty Daniel (Newton High) and Austin Fuller (Alcovy), each members of the East Stars.
And they represented by winning the entire tournament in four games.
After the first pitch was tossed by Dothan's very own Andrew Neal and caught by East Stars catcher Blake Graham, play was then soon underway.
Game one of the tournament for the East Stars included Fuller (first base) and Bowen (second base) as starting infielders.
"A good pregame workout is essential to helping settle the nerves," said East Stars coach Bill Delevan regarding a game that was dominated by pitching.
In the end, the East Stars won, 1-0.
Starting pitcher Tyler Smith came out throwing gas, recording seven strikeouts in three innings of work.
Smith was relieved by a hard throwing left-hander, Robert Daniel, from Albany, who had nine strikeouts in four innings.
Both Fuller and Braswell combined to go 0-for-3 in the first game; however, Daniel beat out an infield hit in the fifth inning.
"I'm very pleased to say the least," Delevan said. "They all played well together."
The second game featured a calmer East Stars squad pitted against the West Stars.
This time the East Stars came out swinging, generating hit after hit (five) en route to scoring three runs in the first inning.
In the end, the East Stars were victorious in convincing fashion, 16-0. Furthermore, they no-hit the West Stars.
Perhaps the highlight occurred in the third inning, when Smith crushed a fastball over the right-center field fence for not only the first two-run homer of the tournament, but the first roundtripper ever at the new complex.
Three pitchers, including Fuller and Braswell, contributed to the no-hitter.
Fuller pitched the third and fourth innings, recording two strikeouts. He was relieved by Braswell in the fifth, and from then on it was lights out.
Braswell fanned two to end the game in a shortened five-inning contest due to the mercy rule.
"I'm only pitching six of the 11 established pitchers that we have," Delevan said in between games. "I have one I think is the ace in the hole; I'm saving him for later."
Despite having an abundance of talent, the strategy paid off for Delevan.
"It's hard, very hard," he said regarding the distribution of playing time. "It's probably the hardest decision I've ever made."
On Sunday, game three featured the Wiregrass Stars against the East Stars.
And once again the East Stars came out on top, 9-2.
But for the first time in the tournament, they struggled early on, falling behind after the first inning, 2-0.
With strong character, the East Stars eventually pulled through, winning 9-2 and improving to 3-0 in the tournament.
The victory propelled the undefeated East Stars into the championship game, a rematch against the Wiregrass Stars.
However, this time it was the East Stars who jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the opening frame.
From there they cruised, winning 8-0 to capture the first title.
In the finale, Fuller contributed with an RBI double in the seventh inning.
On the mound, Daniel closed out the game with a dominating performance in the seventh, striking out two along the way.