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Starkville All-Star team bound for World Series

July 19, 2011

Starkville 8-year-old Coach-Pitch All-Star coach Keith Lawrence instructs his team during practice on Monday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Coach Keith Lawrence sees something out of the Starkville 8-year-old Coach-Pitch All-Stars now that wasn't there last year.
When Starkville finished second in the Dizzy Dean State Tournament in 2010, Lawrence knew his team wasn't ready to make a serious run in the World Series.
This year is different.
The Starkville Longhorns had an impressive showing two weeks ago at the Dizzy Dean State Tournament in Louisville, winning four-straight games to claim the championship and out-scoring opponents 71-19 along the way.
"It's like a 360-degree turn," Lawrence said. "When we finished second in the state last year, I told them they weren't ready to go to the World Series.
"With a blind-pool selection, anything could happen, but if everything falls the way it should, we should have a shot. I think they are capable of doing something very special."
The World Series begins Saturday in Southaven and Lawrence said the Longhorns intend to take care of business when they travel to the north part of the state.
"They realize we're not finished," Lawrence said. "The expectation on them is to represent Starkville and the state of Mississippi because they know a team from Mississippi hasn't won it yet and that will be a good way to close out their coach-pitch season with doing something no one has done before."
Starkville enters the World Series with momentum after defeating Caledonia 17-5, Houston 20-4, Louisville 22-9 and Columbus American 12-1 in the state tournament.
The true character of the Longhorns showed up during the victory over host Louisville when one of the team leaders Keyshawn Lawrence became ill and couldn't continue in the game.
Coach Lawrence, Keyshawn's father, was happy to see his squad respond to adversity.
"When he went down, everybody was looking for him to lead," Lawrence said. "He's like the only shortstop we have. A lot of kids play multiple positions, but when it comes to shortstop, he's the best at that position.
"We put two or three kids at that position and they did what they had to do. They were like a deer in headlights at first, but when I told them this was not a one-man team and with that coming from me and Keyshawn was my son, it shocked them in a way I think."
Even in scoring an average of 17.75 runs per game to capture the state title, Lawrence believes defense is "the catalyst" for Starkville. The Longhorns only gave up 4.75 runs per game at state.
"If we don't play good defense, you don't look for a good day from the kids," Lawrence said. "Our defense is our strength. The kids make plays. They don't miss pop-ups, but when it does go out (to the outfield), they get it back into second base. The kids have been playing together and know what to do."
Lawrence reports to Southaven Friday with a coaches meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. At that time, the blind draft will take place where the scheduled times and opponents will be determined. The players report before 5 p.m. and an opening ceremony will be held before play begins on Saturday.
The members of the Starkville All-Stars are Sam Clark, Riley Dawkins, Cedric Hines, Nyjal Johnson, Keyshawn Lawrence, Tae Lucious, Jackson Owen, Keyvon Pearson, Banks Perry, Ahmir Taylor, Thomas Tucker and Qae Williams. The assistant coaches are Edwards Shields, Terrell Johnson and Sean Owen.
Lawrence has gotten favorable comments from other coaches in Alabama and other locations during the travel season, but he understands the Longhorns have to do more than show up to experience success at the World Series.
"You might get into a pool with teams that can't play or you might get into a pool with three other state champions," Lawrence said. "You never know."

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