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Meridian 13s, 14s headed to Arkansas for regionals

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 23, 2003
Meridian's baseball programs for 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds are flexing their diamond muscles once again this year.
The 13-year-old and 14-year-old Meridian All-Stars are both making their way to Arkansas to play in their age group's regional tournaments, with a chance to earn spots in their respective World Series.
The 13-year-old squad will travel to Warren, Ark., and the 14-year-old team will go to Bentonville, Ark., for the 10-team regional tourneys that begin on Friday.
"Meridian has a good baseball program," said 14-year-old's head coach Randy Diveley. "It starts from the young ages all the way up to the older ages. Every year, we have four or five teams (advancing), which is real good for Meridian."
The two regional tournaments will be contested by teams from Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
The elder of the two Meridian teams vying for a shot at a World Series berth drew a tough opponent in its first game of regional play.
Meridian will take on Louisiana, the age group's defending World Series champion, in the first game played at Phillips Baseball Park in Bentonville, Ark.
The 14-year-olds take the field against Louisiana at 11 a.m. on Friday.
"Every year (Louisiana) has a competitive team," Diveley said. "If we can get by them, we'll be sitting pretty."
The 14-year-old squad will leave for its 642-mile trip to the tournament today, and the team will be checking into its hotel on Thursday.
Diveley said the road trip has become old hat for his team, and he doesn't expect being away from home to affect the squad.
"We went further last year when we went to the south of Texas," Diveley said. "We came in third place last year, and we were a play away from the championship game."
The 13-year-old squad will also be playing a team from Louisiana in the opening round of its regional tourney in Warren, Ark.
But unlike their 14-year-old counterparts, the younger of the two squads doesn't have a lot of knowledge of its opening-round opponent.
"We are going in blind," said Meridian head coach Mike Newell, whose team plays Louisiana at 1:30 p.m. Friday. "All we know is every team is a state champion, like us, or they won their half."
Newell said he feels confident going into the regional tournament, and the coach has a lot to feel good about after his team's performance in the state tournament at Q.V. Sykes Park two weeks ago.
Meridian outscored its opponents 42-3, and all four of the team's starting pitchers went the distance in their games.
The pitchers also only gave up seven hits during the state tournament en route to Meridian earning its spot in the regionals.
"Pitching is probably our strongest aspect," Newell said. "We've worked on hitting a lot in the last week, because we really couldn't get on the field. Our defense is strong. We have kids who can play, and I would say about 90 percent of them can play anywhere."