Local team headed to league's World Series
By By Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
What local baseball team has a 50-6 record, has a team batting average over .400, and is going to play in their league's World Series?
The North Alabama Vipers, that's who.
Head Coach and Manager Tim Garner said his 9-year-old baseball players are the all-stars of the all-stars.
The N.A. Vipers play in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) league, an amateur athletic association that plays regular Major League Baseball rules. They have won eight tournaments this season, won 50 games and lost only 6. The Vipers are the USSSA state champions, beating the Madison Maulers 14-11 in a come-from-behind victory.
According to Garner, the Vipers were down 11-4 in the fourth inning, but came back big to win the championship game. The state tournament was played at the end of May in Cullman.
The Vipers do a lot of traveling and playing. They have played tournaments in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri and Alabama. By the end of the season, the Vipers will have played more than 70 games from March through July.
Winning the state title earned the Vipers a slot in the USSSA World Series for nine year olds, to be played in St. Louis, Mo., July 13-20. Because of their tournament successes, the Vipers are currently ranked number one in the nation by USSSA for their age group.
The Vipers practice twice a week on their on practice field in Harvest. Garner said all 10 of his players have pitched in games this year and they all love to play baseball.
Viper team members are: Nathan Nelson of Madison, Landon Ray of Monrovia, Mason Throneberry of Madison, Austin Sexton of Monrovia, Will Smith of Athens, Chad Key of Monrovia, Daniel Garner of Monrovia, Trey Wingenter of Madison, Jake Nelson of Monrovia and Dalton Steadman of Ardmore.
Garner said all the kids' dads help with coaching. He credits them for helping to make the Vipers the awesome team they are.
Fielding a team in the USSSA league is not the same as community league baseball. The USSSA league is not a city funded one. According to Garner, the Vipers have a $12,000 budget for the year, which is used for uniforms, equipment and tournament fees.
Both the 10-year-old and 12-year-old North Alabama Vipers won state championships for their age group in 2003, making it a successful year for the North Alabama Viper Baseball Organization, Garner said.