Bandits win World Series

The bases loaded jam was just to make things interesting Saturday.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the final inning, the Bandits found themselves in a tight spot with the bases loaded and no outs.

“I was really nervous, but I was thinking that I had a good defense behind me and a good catcher and whatever we did we still had another game to play if we lost,” said Jake Walters, who closed the game for the save.

The defense stepped up as a fly ball to right retired the first out and then a force play at the plate gave Walters chills on the second out.

Walters went on to strike out the last Juice batter to send the Bandits’ caps flying in the air with a 2-1 victory and the 12-under United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Baseball East World Series Championship.

“It was special for us because it was at home. We finally get to play in Alabaster. We’re from here but we never get to play here. We’re always having to go out of town to play,” said head coach Rusty Rigney.

The Bandits began the day against the Juice from Memphis, Tenn., with a 2-0 victory. Tournament MVP Rocky Milton pitched five scoreless innings for the win to send the Bandits to the title game, while Jonah Todd came in and picked up the save with the bases loaded in the sixth.

Todd got the start for the title game, pitching five innings. The Juice scored its lone run on an RBI single in the first inning. It was only the sixth run allowed in seven games through the tournament by the Bandits.

The Bandits tied the game in the top of the third and later took the lead in the top of the sixth when a pick off throw to first went sailing down the first base fence.

“These are big fields. We’ve been trying to get big leads to draw throws over here, because all week long when they throw it over (to first) and it goes over (to the fence) we’re able to take two bases,” Rigney said.

Seth Young’s throw to first went high as Davis Cox crashed back into first base. The error allowed Todd to score from second.

“We were screaming, ‘Go two,’ ‘Go home’ the whole time. It was huge,” Rigney said.

The Bandits’ success began at age 6 when they were rec league All-Stars. The team transformed into the Bandits, finishing as runner-up in the 7-year-old World Series in Oklahoma. All the Bandits had to do was win one of two games and they were champions. They lost both.

“That was the turn-around for us,” Rigney said.

The Bandits went 62-1 the next year and won the series as 8-year-olds. Now, four years later, they’ve won it again at 12.

“Now we get to put ‘World Series Champion’ on our MySpace,” first baseman Mel Harwell said during the celebration.

The Bandits went 7-0 through the tournament to post a 66-17 season record.

Team members are: Drew Avans, Jay Burton, Davis Cox, Mel Harwell, Neil, Jimmerson, Peyton Johnson, Rocky Milton, Joel Patete, Hunter Rigney, Joe Simonetti, Jonah Todd and Jake Walters. Coaches are: Gary Johnson, Rusty Rigney, Kerry Todd and Kent Walters.