The Newton Knights, an 11 and under travel baseball team from Covington, was recently reclassified from AA to AAA by the United States Specialty Sports Association.
Last week, USSSA reassigned 164 of the 50,000-plus teams in its organization. There were five teams (Newton Knights, Eagles Baseball, South Georgia Sluggers, Georgia Bombers and the Georgia Elite) that moved up from AA to the AAA class in the 11 and under age division due to power rating and winning percentage in Georgia.
Knights head coach Leroy James did not expect the team to be reclassified to the AAA class until next year.
The two big changes for the Knights are competing against the stronger AAA teams and not being able to participate in the AA World Series in Pace, Fla. in July. The Knights can only enter tournaments that are open to AAA teams and can only participate in the AAA World Series.
However, the Knights still have a berth to the AAA World Series because they previously earned a berth to the AA World Series.
The AAA World Series is located in Louisiana or Kansas for 2008.
Overall, the Knights have competed in seven tournaments this year. They have a 15-4 record against AA teams and are 0-5 against AAA teams.
Since being reclassified to AAA, the Knights are ranked 11th in the state in total points, 38th in the state power rating ranking and have the No. 1 ranking in the coaches poll.
The USSSA organization has experienced tremendous growth in the last five to 10 years. It believes this growth is due to the fact that the USSSA provides four distinct classifications of competition for players 10-18 years old in single age divisions. The format allows players of all skill levels to enjoy competing against teams of equal ability.
The four classifications for the 10 and under to the 18 and under age divisions are Major, AAA, AA and A-Rec.
According to USSSA baseball, "the Major classification is designed for the most competitive, select teams." Players on these teams may be recruited from any state. This level is the most talented and highly skilled division, and provides outstanding teams who take great pride in competing day in and day out against the best in the nation.
The AAA classification is designed for those "select" or "recruited" or "frozen" teams which cannot attain qualification at the Major level. It is intended to be the "middle ground" for travel teams in USSSA.
The AA classification is designed for those "select" or "recruited" or "frozen" teams which cannot attain qualification at the AAA level. If USSSA finds AA teams consistently winning within the AA class, it reserves the right (Rule 3.04) to elevate such teams to AAA.
The A-Rec classification is designed for those "recreation level" teams which are bound by geographic league boundaries and restricted rosters of no more than four "frozen or protected" players.
The Knights will attend the Grand Slam World Series in Panama City Beach, Fla. instead of traveling to Louisiana or Kansas for the USSSA World Series.
"The Grand Slam is an organization like USSSA but not quite as big," James said. "There are plenty of teams throughout the year that play games in both USSSA and Grand Slam, as well as a few others.
According to James, Grand Slam does not have a classification level within the age groups like USSSA. Rather, all 11U teams are in one large group regardless of skill level.
For now the Knights are more concerned about their tournament this weekend in Hampton. They will compete in the USSSA NIT "Clash of the Champions" SOLD OUT at the North Forty Park.
The tournament has 10 teams that are ranked AAA or Major, so it is going to be a good test of how the Knights perform against stronger competition. They begin pool play against the Georgia Yard Dogs of College Park (22-9 overall AAA) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
On Saturday, the Knights have two games in pool play. The first is at 12:30 p.m. against the Macon Warriors (20-7 AAA). The second game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. against Southside Graysox (24-6 Major).
Sunday's schedule will depend on the results of the pool play.
For more information on the Newton Knights or if you would like to support the team in their quest to get to the World Series, contact Gay Clark at (404) 550-9582 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.