After a last-minute juggling of the lineup, the inaugural MPS baseball tournament was held on Saturday at Gateway Park with Johnnie Carr defeating Dunbar-Ramer 15-0 and 13-0 for the championship.
Like the MPS middle school softball tournament a week earlier, the level of experience made a huge difference. Johnnie Carr, which formed a team in 2018, was far ahead of Dunbar-Ramer, who was in its first year as a program.
“It was good we were able to get everybody together,” Johnnie Carr coach Cornelius Calhoun said. “We’ve got 25 kids who are doing something positive and playing the game of baseball that isn’t recognized on the same level as football and basketball in the city of Montgomery. We’re trying to grow it and let the kids know they can get a free education (with a college scholarship) playing this sport.
“I think all of the schools now will get involved. I guess some of them were scared to get involved until they could see it first hand, so I think next year it’ll be bigger. I’ve been talking to some of the coaches in the River Region and next year we’re going to set up a middle school region to play each other.”
The baseball tournament almost fell apart after Floyd Middle Magnet School elected at the last second not to participate. A middle school baseball committee headed by David Thomas and Dan Lewis, which had provided the financial support for the program, was able to get the other two MPS middle schools to play a best-of-three series. The last-minute changes also left the tournament with one umpire, who called both games from behind the plate.
“I’m glad we got a chance to start both softball and baseball,” Thomas said. “I’m grateful for the schools that chose to be a part of it. I wish Dunbar could have played more games (this season). And I wish the coaches and athletic directors had been a little more supportive of the things we had agreed on and the tournament could have stayed intact like the softball tournament did.”
The MPS softball tournament, held a week ago at the AUM Dixie Softball Complex, featured all three teams. Floyd Middle Magnet School defeated Johnnie Carr for the title.
Calhoun praised all of his players who had been a part of last year’s team and stayed with the program after he took over as coach.
“All of them played well,” Calhoun said. “This same team only won two games a calendar year ago and this year we finished 18-5-1. That was a remarkable turnaround.”
He also lauded the performance of a pair of seventh graders: pitcher Jabari Duncklin, who pitched two no-hitters this season, and Braelon Markette, who pitches, plays first and also serves as a designated hitter.
“They really held their own and stepped up,” Calhoun said. “They pitched remarkably well and stepped up when their name was called. I depended on those two a lot.”
Representing Dunbar-Ramer on the all-tournament team were Samaki Matthews and Jamar Green.
“We have made history again in a very positive and unique way,” Thomas said. “Three middle schools participated this year. They played each other and other surrounding teams in our area. Many persons, churches, businesses, organizations and the county commissioners have made our vision a reality. Our committee thanks all of our contributors. We would not have succeeded without them as well as the principals, coaches, parents, umpires, staff and committee members.
“We also owe a debt of gratitude to the Board of Education, last year and this year, as well as superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore and the rest of the MPS staff. We are excited and encouraged and anticipate next year’s season.”