MURRAY — Coming into the Babe Ruth World Series this past week at Ken Price Park, Taylorsville had scorched all comers in its previous games.
"We 10-runned every game at state," said manager Chet Nicholls as he reflected on the difference in competition at the World Series level.
"It takes being focused at this higher level," he said. "There just isn't any room for error. The speed of the game is quicker. Quicker arms, quicker runners, you gotta be a whole 'nother level sharper."
Taylorsville emerged from the tournament with a 1-3 record, but Nicholls said, "We scored enough runs to win every game, we just made some mistakes."
Ken Atwood and Zac Stepp were the top performers for Taylorsville.
Then there is Murray. As the host team, they received a sponsor's exemption slot to get into the tournament. Not having to earn their way in, no one expected much from them. And their first game went true to form. Tallahassee blew them off the field, 18-1.
But their second game was a different story.
Playing a team from Missouri, Murray jumped out to an eight-run lead and Spencer Downs pitched superbly for 31?3 innings, but when bullpen stopper Cory Carroll came in he gave up seven runs and barely hung on for the win.
In Murray's fourth game against Kennewick, Wash., they fell behind 7-1, only this time Carroll came in and held Washington scoreless the rest of the way and Murray rallied for another 8-7 victory. And leading the rally was Carroll with two hits and two RBIs.
After that game, when Murray learned it was in the quarterfinals, there was much jubilation. Coach Dewey Kettering had already told them if they were to win that game, they would deserve to get out of school.
He backed off a little saying he would leave that decision up to the parents. Of course the entire team broke into a chant: "No school, no school."
At that point Kettering exclaimed, "Don't be calling in any bomb threats."
Kettering also said, "They will take this one to their graves," which was his way of saying that the kids will never forget that game.
The celebration was short-lived as the next night Murray faced Harris, Ind., and again was blown away 21-2. But Kettering has a special relationship with his boys. "These are my kids now," he said. "We are family."
As for Taylorsville, they may have more fond memories of friendships formed than any on-the-field heroics. The Tri-Valley California players stayed in the homes of the Taylorsville players and a great camaraderie came out of that, according to Nicholls.
Tri-Valley cheered and supported Taylorsville from the stands.
"They were having a ball with it," said Nicholls.
He also wanted to mention Doug Orchard, a utility infielder who broke his collarbone at a water theme park a week prior to the tournament.
"We got him an at-bat," said Nicholls. It was in the last inning of the last game and he had to bat left-handed rather than his normal right-handed. He struck out.
Perhaps a type or model of the Taylorsville total tournament experience.
"I was just really, really proud of the kids," concluded Nicholls.
Saturday at Ken Price Park
Tallahassee-Leon (Fla.) 8, Tri-Valley (Calif.) 7