MARSHALL, Texas — A trip to the World Series in Ozark, Ala., is up for grabs.
The American Legion Texas state tournament begins today as the Texarkana Bulldogs face the Texarkana Sticks in a 3-game series to determine who will play in the World Series.
Today's doubleheader is at Airport Park in Marshall, Texas, with the first game at 5 p.m. and a second game to follow. If necessary, a third game will be played Friday back at Airport Park with time to be announced.
Head coaches Kevin Sutton of the Bulldogs and Brett Usrey of the Sticks are looking forward to the clash of teams from Texarkana, Texas.
"The Texarkana Sticks are a very talented team," Sutton said. "They are made up of seniors and first year collegiate guys similar to the Bulldogs. I have not seen them play but on paper the current team looks pretty good."
Usrey had positive things to say about the Bulldogs as well.
"The Bulldogs have a great record and have a lot of kids that have played together for several years," Usrey said. "They have a lot of team chemistry, are fast and have good pitching."
Starting for the Bulldogs are either Keaton Russo or Kris Shumaker at catcher, TJ Krause at first, Bradley Bearden plays second, Bryson Rhodes is at third and Chris Sutton rounds out the infield at shortstop.
In the outfield are Marzavin Riles in left, Chris Lyles in center and Connor Allred in right. Aaron Prince may start in the outfield.
"I think putting the bat on the ball will be the key to the series," Sutton said. "Both teams have experienced players and they all know what to do. There will be good pitching and good defense from both teams. The variable in this type of series will be hitting."
Starting pitchers for the Bulldogs include Cross Holder, Cooper Perry, Ryan Galvan, Josh Longstretch, Hunter Allen or Dakota Frachiseur.
"We have some really good pitching," Usrey said. "The key is going to be in making the routine defensive plays and get big hits. We've been talking about state and the chance to go to the World Series. It is going to be a playoff-type atmosphere."
The Bulldogs hold a record of 18-2 and have a lot of experienced players. The Sticks' roster will include players from the 17u Sticks team. The games were slated to be played on Saturday and Sunday but were moved last minute to today and Friday. Some Sticks players were not able to adjust to the schedule and are unavailable to play.
"Morale can vary game to game," Sutton said. "As a team our morale and confidence is pretty high. Our guys know we have a good team. They also know when we play ball that we are very difficult to beat."
Starting for the Sticks in Game 1 are pitcher Preston Davis, catcher Tanner Gibson, first baseman Braden Hlavinka, second baseman Matthew O'Neal, third baseman Noah Bristow and shortstop Colbey Johnson. Tucker Anderson is the designated hitter for Johnson.
In the outfield for the Sticks are left fielder Kaleb Thompson, center fielder Drew Galyean and right fielder Silas Cowgill.
The team that wins this series will advance to the Dixie Majors World Series that will be held in Ozark, Ala., from July 25-28. The winner of our series will represent the state of Texas in the tournament. The first game for the Texas champion will be against Alabama on July 25.
There are twelve teams and eleven states represented in the tournament. Each state is represented by their Dixie State championship team.
The Texarkana Junior Bulldogs (17-1) received an automatic bid to the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series that will be held July 25-28 in Guntersville, Ala. The Junior Bulldogs will face Tennessee on July 25 and are coached by Michael Galvan.