Itâ€™s quite a feat to be No. 1 in the state in baseball but imagine being No. 1 in the nation. Such is the case for the 10 and under Lake Norman Nitro from Denver.
Last week, according to the USSSA National Ranking Report the Nitro, out of 167 teams in the poll, were ranked No. 1.
When it comes to USSSA baseball coaches at any level seek out or â€˜recruitâ€™ the best talent to give them the best chance to win, but not Lake Norman.
â€œâ€œWeâ€™ve pulled local boys where everybody else is out there recruiting. Our whole team is based right here in Denver,â€ says head coach Marc Hodges.
The Nitro is comprised of 10 members: Jared Rappe, Cameron Carter, Clay Hodges, Craig Sutton, Travis Cannon, David Scoggins, Garrett Young, Adison Parrish, Christian Anderson and Justin Norton and are coached by Hodges, Ronnie Young and Shawn Anderson.
Although, it is a 10 and under league, the Nitro consists of mostly nine-year-old kids.
â€œItâ€™s a great accomplishment for the young kids. It is competitive baseball and most of these teams have been together two or three years. Weâ€™ve pulled it together this year and weâ€™ve basically started kicking butt,â€ Hodges said of their feat.
The Nitro (18-3) has participated in five tournaments and come away the winner in three of the them. The other two? They finished as runner-ups. Lake Norman won the Battle of The Carolinas, The Fall State Championship and the Back-To-School Clash. At one point the team put together an 11-game win streak.
Hodges believes that itâ€™s the boysâ€™ attitudes that allow them to have such success.
â€œThese boys are very strong-willed. They have a lot of talent but they have a lot of desireâ€”they are not intimidated. They look across at the other dugout and think â€˜you maybe bigger, but we are badder.â€™ They are pretty cocky,â€ he said.
How much talent do they have? Hodges helps put that into perspective.
â€œItâ€™s very seldom that you are No. 1 in the nation in any national poll. Most of these teams recruit because usually there is not enough talent in one little centralized area to compete but we do.â€
Hodges did not recruit but he did â€˜keep an eye onâ€™ a group of seven-year olds two years ago.
â€œIâ€™ve had my eye on them for a couple of years. I knew they were talented, but I didnâ€™t think we would achieve this kind of success this quickly. Theyâ€™re really stepped it up a notch, a lot quicker than I thought,â€ he said.
Norton, Carter and Scoggins are the clubâ€™s main pitching rotation which is one of the teamâ€™s strengths.
â€œWeâ€™ve been able to put together a very good pitching rotation. Weâ€™re very deep and you need that in tournament play,â€ Hodges said.
Their hitting is not too shabby either. Marcâ€™s son Clay has the No. 1 batting average in the country according to the USSSA batting at a .644 clip with 13 doubles and three triples. Clay is one of three that bat over .500 with Parrish and Carter joining him.
Hodges believes the key for those three hitters has been consistency regardless of the competition.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been able to hit the quality pitching as good as theyâ€™ve hit the weaker pitching. Weâ€™ve beat some very good pitchersâ€”they havenâ€™t been intimidated,â€ he said.
The driving force behind the Nitro, besides the moms, dads, cousins and grandparents, is the Lakeside Collision Center who has fully funded the team. Hodges and the rest of team is especially grateful for their support.
â€œNone of this would be possible without them and their support. These kids have all developed better skills and become better ball players and itâ€™s contributed to Lakeside.â€No matter how the rest of the season goes, lifelong memories have already been made as a team from little olâ€™ Denver was number one in the land. by John Mark Brooks