Summer recreation season is upon us, and a group of young baseball players are taking full advantage.
Three teams from Covington have advanced to the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) State Championship Finals this weekend. The Newton County All-Stars Green 12-and-under team made it to the finals, while both the green and royal 10-and-under Newton County All-Stars teams advanced in their division.
In the Sub-State Championships that took place on June 10 at City Pond Park, the 12-and-under team went 5-1 in their division, scoring 78 runs and only allowing 22. In order to make the finals, the team needed to win four games over a 10-hour span — a feat they executed perfectly.
Starting Saturday in the winner’s bracket, the 12-and-under team won their first game before dropping their second. The loss put them back into the loser’s bracket, meaning the team needed four more wins to advance.
On Sunday, the team faced first place Central Walton twice, beating them both times to secure a spot in the next round.
“We started at 9 a.m. and ended about 4 p.m.,” said head coach Randy Bonnet. “The kids played out in that heat all day, and we scored 60 runs to our opponent’s 13. That took us into the state championship.”
In the 10 and under division, both the Green and Royal team dominated their competition, with both teams going 3-0 in the tournament. The Green all-stars ousted all-star teams from Newnan, Pike County and Cust Grove, while the Royal all-stars went undefeated against three teams from Walton County.
The state championships will begin June 18 and conclude on Sunday. There are five divisions in the tournament, with two ages in each: 5/6-year-olds, 7/8-year-olds, 8/9-year-olds, 10/12-year-olds and 13/14-year-olds.
The 12-and-under team will have to face the top-ranked Newnan All-Stars at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday in the double elimination tournament.
“We have a pretty tough team that we’re going to have to beat right off the bat,” Bonnet said. “If we can get through those games, we’ll be headed to the World Series. Our goal is to get these guys put away quick, hope for the best, and take it to Mississippi.”
The 10-and-under Newton Green All-Stars will face the North Macon All-Stars at 9 a.m., while Newton’s Royal All-Stars will go against Newnan at 11 a.m.
The USSSA is a non-profit organization that governs 13 sports, including baseball, basketball, golf, lacrosse, flag football and more. This is the first year that recreation baseball has played under the rules of the USSSA. While young players often steer toward travel baseball in order to participate in more tournaments, Bonnet hopes the success of these teams influence players to participate in recreation baseball.
“I think that when you can take these kids and get to a level that we’re at right now, it gives kids that are thinking about just playing travel ball more incentive to want to play in rec,” he said. “It’s giving them more exposure, and I think that’s going to draw more kids in. We definitely need more kids playing rec baseball.”