Local standouts advance in Pitch, Hit & Run competition

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 5, 2017

MCNEILL — Over the weekend, young athletes showed off their skills in the 2017 Scott’s Major League Baseball Pitch Hit & Run. Competitors battled for an opportunity to advance through four levels of competition to play during the MLB All-Star Week.

Pitch, Hit & Run is the official skills competition of Major League Baseball and is separated into four different skill challenges: pitching, hitting, running and best overall athlete for each respective age group up to 14-years-old.

A local competition Saturday in McNeill marked the first level, in which a couple of young athletes stood out amongst the rest, placing above many other competitors across the nation, Joe Nameth, owner of the competition’s sponsor Valkyrie Sports and Fitness, said.

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During the pitching event, each participant gets six baseballs to hit the strike zone, which is an 11 inch by 12 inch target from 45 feet away. The pitcher receives 75 points each time the strike zone is hit.

The batting portion tested the competitors’ ability to hit the ball from a stationary batting tee along a tape measure from home plate. The closer to a line drawn from home plate straight-out into centerfield the more points a hitter received. Distance was also a factor in point totals.

The final portion, running, measured the participant’s speed in a sprint from second base, touching third base to finish at home plate.

Only the first place winner of each competition qualifies for the next level of the competition in Hattiesburg.

As many as 36 athletes competed in the four age groups of the Pitch, Hit & Run competition, but only 14 athletes advanced.

In the youngest division, ages 5-6, Thomas Andrews dominated the competition, getting first place in the hitting and running categories. Because of his performance, Andrews also earned best overall athlete for the age group. Wyatt Miller placed first in pitching.

As for the 7 and 8-year-old participants, Colston Ladner took first place in pitching and hitting and was awarded the best overall athlete. Tyler Rutledge earned the fastest time during the running event.

“Colston has a great chance of advancing through the next round. He is a great athlete and was one of the most exciting players to watch so far,” Nameth said.

In what Nameth described as the most competitive age group, 9-10-years-old, five athletes qualified to advance to the next level in the four categories. The first place winners were Landon Jarrell in the running event and Torry Robinson in the hitting event. A tie between Connor Gonzalez and Samuel Tumminullo occurred for first place in the pitching event, allowing both athletes to advance. Dalton McQueen gave the best overall performance in the 9-10 age group, which qualified him for the next level of competition.

“Every final score in this age group was really close, with first and second place separated by at most seven to 10 points. All of the athletes advancing are very skilled and will represent the area well,” Nameth said.

Donnie Ladner paved his way to becoming the best overall athlete in the 11-12 age group with an outstanding performance on the mound by placing first in pitching. Other winners in the age group include first place hitter Dylan Jarrell and first place runner Malachi Normand.

The 13-14-year-old division was a duel between two talented athletes, Nameth said, Moose Rutledge and Caleb Benton.

In the first event, Rutledge took control, pitching his way to first place. However, Benton out-performed the other athletes in the hitting event to take first place. Rutledge showed his versatility on the diamond by finishing the running event in first place. Because of both of their performances, they tied for the best overall athlete award in their age group.

“This event proved that our community produces a ton of skilled athletes. It was a great joy watching them compete. The future is bright for young athletes in the area and I hope we have some advance all the way in this competition,” Nameth said.

The winners now advance to compete in the next competition where only the all-around champions will advance to the team championships hosted by the MLB Atlanta Braves franchise. The next competition will take place May 13 at Larry Doleac Youth Baseball Complex at 84 Parkway Boulevard in Hattiesburg at 3 p.m.