The Hinesville 14U Barracudas won the Cinco de Mayo Tournament held over the weekend in Macon.
That makes three first-place finishes in three tournaments, earning the team the No. 1 spot in the nation in the United States Specialty Sports Association’s power ratings.
The Barracudas came in with a power rating of 1310 for the 14U Class AA division. They have 450 USSSA Points and an in class record of 10-3. Their out-of-class record is 1-0. They are No. 1 of 1,082 teams competing in the 14-and-under Class AA division.
The USSSA power rating system was designed in 1998 as a way to fairly rank teams, of the same class, that have not played the same number of games. It uses winning percentages of teams and their opponents along with number of games played and record.
Barracudas’ coach Chris Bell said earning the top rating in the nation is quite an accomplishment, considering most of his players spent the early part of the USSSA season still playing for their respective high schools.
“Well, that was something and it’s not so much for me as it is for the boys. ... Even if it is only for a week or maybe for the rest of the year they will be able to say at one time we were No. 1 in our division,” Bell said.
The team placed first at the Super NIT in March, first at the Mill Creek Tournament in April in Statesboro before taking the Cinco de Mayo Tournament in Macon.
“The (Cinco de Mayo) tournament boasted four of the top seven teams within their division in the state,” Bell said.
In last Saturday’s pool play, the Barracudas went 1-1, beating the Jonesboro Braves, 5-4, but losing to the South Georgia Titans, 8-2.
“We gave up 12 runs, and only three of them were earned,” Bell said. “It was a disappointing start.”
The coach said his team had a different outlook in Sunday’s bracket play.
“They decided to make the other teams earn their runs,” Bell said. “These boys have a switch that, when turned on, makes them a formidable foe for any opponent.”
Their first opponent in bracket play was the Blue Jays from Adel. The Barracudas struck late to win, 10-5, in six innings. In the second game, the boys faced the Titans again.
“This game came down to who wanted it most, with both pitching staffs being up to the task,” Bell said. “We built a 4-0 lead through four innings and held on to win, 4-2, in seven.”
The Barracudas beat the Jonesboro Braves, 10-2, in five innings in the championship game.
The Barracudas have qualified to play in the USSSA Class AA World Series, held during the Independence Day holiday in Kingsport, Tenn.
“We just tried to get a group of boys that were around the same age and try to get them to stay together for a while in an effort so that all of them would have the opportunity to play at the next level,” Bell said about the squad he has coached for four seasons. “It is a big deal for the boys to have the opportunity to go there (World Series). Unfortunately, we didn’t do that before this year, we just didn’t have the funding to make that type of commitment. But this year, we decided at the beginning of the season what our goals were and what we wanted to do and come July we knew where we wanted to be and we’ve made it, we’ve qualified for it, so we are going.”
The Barracudas will play in a tournament in Pooler this weekend and are planning to play in another tournament May 19 in Statesboro. Afterward, players will finish playing for their respective Liberty County Recreation Department teams before heading to the state championship June 8 in Monroe, followed by the World Series on July 4.
“All the other teams we come up against are made up of what you call small All-Star teams,” Bell said. “Very few of them are from the same town … but here we have got boys that live and play within the same neighborhoods. That certainly helps and the parental support for this team has been outstanding.”
Bell said the players’ parents have been the glue that has helped bind the team together this season. The parents have been involved from the first day, spear-heading fundraisers to help the team travel to tournaments. The coach said they will be planning a few more fundraisers, since the World Series is a five-day trip.
“We are aiming for our short-term goals, and we are on our way to meeting some of our long-term goals.,” Bell said. “When the boys are juniors and seniors and the phone starts ringing and they start receiving offers and opportunities to play at the next level, that is our goal.”
Coach Chris Bell