By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Baseball Association returned to play in its marquee event for local youth baseball, the Andre Rodgers National Championships.
The Freedom Farm Baseball League also returned to its dominance by claiming six of the m seven contested divisions - 6U (T-Ball), 8U (Coach Pitch), 10U, 12U, 14U and 18U divisions while the Junior Baseball League of Nassau won the 16U division, at the tournament hosted at the refurbished Baillou Hills Sports Complex.
After hosting the event in Grand Bahama for the past decade, the BBA decided to bring it back to New Providence where it got started in 2003 and was staged in the capital for its first seven years.
Other participating teams included the Grand Bahama Little League (GBLL), Legacy Baseball League (LBL), Community Baseball League (CBL), Ed Armbrister Baseball League, Abaco Youth Baseball League (AYBL) and the North Abaco Big Nige Baseball Club.
Freedom Farm’s youngest group in the T-Ball division won 28-5 and 18-8 over Legacy Baseball on their path to the gold medal.
The Coach Pitch division had the most dominant performance in the tournament, allowing just a single run over five games. Freedom Farm opened with a 16-0 win over Legacy, 14-0 win over JBLN, 26-0 win over Legacy and 19-1 win over JBLN in the gold medal game.
In the 10U division, Freedom Farm completed bracket play undefeated at 3-0 with a 16-0 win over JBLN, a 16-2 win over GBLL and another 14-5 win over JBLN. In the semifinals they defeated Legacy Baseball 11-1 and concluded the tournament with a 7-2 win over JBLN in the finale.
“We knew that we were going to win the championship because our guys play far above the level we saw in the tournament. Our preparation was second to none, the kids did a wonderful job, they worked hard and they deserved this victory,” 10U manager William Seymour said.
“Freedom Farm is a wonderful organisation, we put in a lot of hard work with these guys and we’re very competitive against our own when the league is on and with that competitive spirit we bring out the best in these kids.”
The 12U Freedom Farm’s team’s path to the gold medal included four shutouts, just three runs allowed and 39 run differential. Bracket play included a 12-0 win over Community Baseball, 14-2 win over GBLL, 13-0 win over north Abaco, 3-1 over JBLN and 9-0 over GBLL in the gold medal game.
“The games in the division were not as competitive as we would have liked. We ran throguh the competition to the championship game and we knew that we had the better team,” said 12U manager Marlon Bostwick Sr.
“In the championship game against Grand Bahama we played a well executed game, we had stellar pitching and good hitting 1-9 in our lineup and we were able to come out with our win even thought it didn’t go the full distance. We wanted to come out and have a mercy rule victory to show our dominance in the division.”
In the 14U division, Freedom Farm won 5-2 over GBLL, 17-0 over North Abaco, 7-0 over AYBL and 13-0 over JBLN in the gold medal game.
In the 18U division, Freedom Farm defeated JBLN in a best of five series.
JBLN prevented the Freedom Farm sweep with their division title in 16U. They overcame an early loss in bracket play to eventually defeat Freedom Farm in the gold medal game.
They began the tournament with a 12- win over the Ed Armbrister Baseball League, followed by a 2-0 loss to Freedom Farm.
JBLN rebounded with a 7-6 win over GBLL in the first of two back-to-backs, and defeated GBLL the following day in the semifinals 2-1. They clinched the gold medal with a 10-6 win over Freedom Farm.
“Whenever Freedom Farm and JBLN face off you will have crowds and plenty excitement. So our job was to stay composed, come out and execute our plans. We got an early lead and we held them off. We know they are a good team and a good organisation but we were able to maintain. We knew whoever got the lead was going to be hard to catch and that was our gameplan, we wanted to put pressure on them,” JBLN 16U manager Warren Levarity Jr said.
“They have a bigger pool to pick from so for us to win it is difficult. That’s why I have to congratulate these players. We knew we had a good team, they were focused and this team is special, it’s always good to win a gold.”
BBA secretary general Theodore Sweeting said the return of the event was a welcome return for the development of the sport at the youth level, highlight by fan support and family island participation.
“We had a very successful nationals. We had our hitches getting started with a newly renovated facility but once we got started we were able to get our necessary games in. We know where we are at. We have to look at a few things we want to do to improve the product, but we are really happy that the kids had a wonderful time. We congratulate all of our teams that came in from the Family Islands. I was really shocked to see the Abaco teams from North Abaco. AYBL did a tremendous job advancing to the bronze medal game in their first time out,” he said. “The fan support, I was shocked on Friday because it was in the middle of the day but we had tremendous support then and got alot of people out over three days. This has been one of the roughest times for our corporate partners but they stepped up making sure that we were able to host the leagues coming in but we still have to go out there and work hard for these young people. We have to realise, sports is the antidote for all that ails the young people in this country. People are excited to see these young people’s enthusiasm and desire for this sport and that is what it is all about. We have to spend the money in our sporting progamme to make an impact on our social issues in this country.”