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Archive for Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Coach’s teams know how to win

Willoughby leads squads to tournament wins

July 21, 2004

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It's good to be Mike Willoughby.

After coaching the 9-U Mustangs -- the only team in Douglas County Amateur Baseball Assn. to go undefeated in the regular season -- to a first place in their league, he was selected to coach one of the 9-U select teams.

The Lightning, his select team assembled from players in the DCABA 9-U league, won the National Baseball Congress state title July 13. Two days later, the Mustangs won the DCABA 9-U tournament July 15 at Douglas County 4-H fields.

Willoughby and the Mustangs defeated the Lancers, 10-7, in the title game. The Lancers are coached by Jim Taylor, who leads the other 9-U select team.

Taylor said the game reflected on how the Lancers had been playing recently. The Lancers had started the season 3-5, but had won nine out of their last 10 games.

The games started off close. After the first inning, the Mustangs led 2-1, but they broke through in the second inning with three runs. The Lancers matched the Mustangs three runs in the third inning, and shut the Mustangs down with a one-two-three bottom half of the inning.

However, the Lancers couldn't score again until the seventh inning.The Mustangs capitalized on the Lancers' drought, scoring four runs in the fifth inning.

Taylor said one bad inning lost the game for the Lancers.

"It's a shame the season has to end," Taylor said. "I'd like to see this team continue to build on what they have started."

Taylor said he hoped that his players continued to play throughout the nine-month hiatus until next season. He saw improvement on the field and hitting as the season progressed.

Chase Taylor led the Lancers offensively with a double and three runs scored. Chris Heller hit a single and a double. Matt Baker scored after being hit by a pitch in the third inning, and also had a single in the fifth inning and a double in the seventh.

Willoughby said the tight championship game represented the way they played most games throughout the season.

"We always seemed to have one big inning that helped us pull through," Willoughby said. "Whether it was someone from the top or the bottom of the line up, someone always seemed to step up."

Jacob Caldwell made it on base at every at bat and scored four runs for the Mustangs. Tanner Glazer, an 8-U player who played in the game for the Mustangs contributed by scoring after reaching base on a walk.

Willoughby said great plays on defense and pitching were two components that helped the Mustangs pull out both the league and tournament championship.

Willoughby said this was his first time in many years of coaching his sons that he has had a team go undefeated.

"It's a remarkable achievement," Willoughby said.

He hopes to continue his success at coaching in the post season with the Lightning at the national tournament.

Willoughby said it was good to see the players from the select teams play in the championship game. Four players from the Mustangs and two players from the Lancers competed with him in the tournament.

Willoughby said the state tournament was a good experience for them to bond and he could see the comaraderie between players on the field July 15.

"They were giving each other knuckles (hitting knuckles together, like a high five) during the game," Willoughby said.

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