Freeman, West Robeson shut out Alabama majors

·4 min read

Aug. 10—LUMBERTON — After Monday's eight-inning win against Lumberton in the Dixie Youth World Series, West Robeson majors coach Eric Freeman was confident that he still had plenty of pitching left in the tank to help his team win its next game.

But the coach probably didn't imagine the performance he'd get Tuesday — and from his own son.

Eli Freeman pitched a complete-game shutout, leading West Robeson to a 9-0 win over Alabama in a tournament elimination game, keeping West Robeson alive into Wednesday.

"We knew tonight would be a good team — every team here is a good team and you've got to play every game like it's a championship game," Eric Freeman said. "Every game for us now is an elimination game. So I talked to the guys and told them we need to come out on top, get the ball early, get runs early and throw strikes. That was our game plan today. Our game plan today was to be more aggressive at the plate, swinging at more first-pitch strikes, and making the routine plays on defense."

West Robeson plays the Louisiana runner-up at 7 p.m. Wednesday in another elimination game, with the winner advancing to Championship Thursday. Alabama, from Headland in the southeastern part of the state, was eliminated.

Eli Freeman threw 84 pitches — just one pitch short of the limit for the 12-and-under age divisions in Dixie Youth Baseball — and allowed three hits.

"I basically came out there with a killer mentality; I just wanted to win and pitch good, and not let anybody get on base and score off of me," Eli Freeman said. "I just tried to limit their hits as small as possible, and hopefully all my defense had my back — and they did."

"A lot of first-pitch strikes; he got ahead in the count a lot," Eric Freeman said. "He stayed in the strike zone, they swung the bat, not very many walks. He got a lot of ground balls, a couple of fly balls, and the defense was solid on the back side. When you get a complete game out of a pitcher in a tournament, it's always a plus; it gives everybody another 24, 36 hours rest. We were hoping for three innings; we got six."

After a first-inning run gave West Robeson a 1-0 lead, the team scored five runs in the second inning for a 6-0 advantage and added three more in the third for a nine-run lead.

"It's always easier to pitch when you're in the lead," Eli Freeman said. "It was easy to cruise since we started off early, and we never looked back."

Eight different West Robeson players had one hit each, and eight different players scored runs. Seth Brooks, Bradon Locklear and Kade Oxendine had doubles and Joseden Oxendine and Dakota Locklear each hit triples. Dakota Locklear, Bradon Locklear, Kade Oxendine and Brylin McNeill — the latter three in the 10th to 12th spots in the 12-man Dixie Youth batting order — each had RBIs.

That offensive production was more than enough as Eli Freeman dealed his way through the Alabama lineup. The team's run through the Dixie Youth World Series is memorable for all its players and the coaching staff, but is a particularly special time for Eric and Eli Freeman, as the father coaches the son.

"He knows my weaknesses, as a pitcher, so we try to stay away from that," Eli Freeman said. "And it's just easier having your dad coach, and him calling all the pitches."

"It's always special any time we get to play together," Eric Freeman said. "Anytime I'm on the field, anytime he's on the field, we have a special connection. We communicate in different ways, and it just gives us a sense of security when we're out there together. It's great as a father to get to see your kid battle, and go at it hard and not give up. It's always fun."

After finishing third in the Dixie Youth World Series last year with six of the same players, West Robeson can reach the final day of the tournament if it wins Wednesday's game against Louisiana's runner-up.

"Last year in the World Series, we finished third, and our goal this year starting was to get past that," Eric Freeman said. "If we win, that's great, but at least get to the championship game. So we're looking forward to it."

Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at cstiles@robesonian.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.