As North State and Winston-Salem National’s Little League teams battled in the opening game of the 9-11 year-old state tournament at Elm Street Park on Wednesday morning, coaches of other teams watched from the stands.
The coaches observed and talked with their assistants about what they saw, hoping to gather some information that would provide an advantage later in the tournament, which wraps up on July 15.
Myers Park Trinity Little League head coach Matt Sullivan explained that he and his staff took advantage of a unique trait to Elm St Park before arriving in Greenville.
“We played both of them (North State and Tar Heel Little Leagues) last year in states,” Sullivan said. “We also took a look and watched some of the live streams and archives of the games before we came into town.”
North State won the opening game, 5-2. The tournament’s designated host team will face Bull City Little League today at 10 a.m.
Myers Park Trinity’s opponents, Forest City, and head coach Travis Hinson also did some scouting ahead of arriving to Greenville, though he plans to use his past experiences with the talented local teams to prepare.
“I looked into it (other teams) as much as I could,” Hinson said. “I know that the Greenville teams are always really really competitive. Year in and year out you can see they are always at the end of the bracket in the state tournament. We’ll definitely check out some of the teams. We showed up early to watch the teams that are playing before us. We just want to see how good they are defensively, how hard their pitchers throw and how hard they hit it, just try to see what kind of competition we’re up against.”
Scott Rogers, the park’s public address announcer, has the best seat in the house, dead center of the press box. In his time at the mic, he has seen plenty of coaches trying to gain a small advantage while taking in a game.
“I’ve definitely seen it,” Rogers said. “You won’t see it as much in the division tournaments. You’ll see it here in the state tournaments and quite a bit in the tournament of state champions.”
There is no rule against scouting an opposing team, according to littleleague.org.
North State head coach Aaron Gibbons also used his general knowledge of Little League programs around N.C. to help prepare for his side’s first-round opponent.
“(Preparing for this game) was difficult because they (Winston-Salem) are not from around here,” Gibbons said. “Mostly, we just know about programs, and Winston-Salem is a strong program. They are the same group that defeated our 9-10 year-old team last year, so we knew we had a battle today. The kids were pumped for it, knowing it was going to be challenging and fun.”
Gibbons added that his team will be spending plenty of time at Elm Street Park during the course of the tournament.
“I think it’s hard to keep (players) away from it because they love baseball so much,” he said.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.