Wise young men: College players guide Mid-County into Wash.

Published 5:34 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NEDERLAND — Zack Friesz and Kody Kolb have stayed in other families’ homes for a baseball tournament before.

“Whenever I was 13 years old in Bay City and Arkansas, it was a lot of fun,” Friesz said.

When the 2016 Nederland classmates are 2,300 miles away from home starting Thursday, they’ll have an idea what the experience is like.

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“It’s a good experience there and it’s going to be another good experience up there,” Kolb said.

Staying with host families in Ephrata, Washington, is the reward for the Mid-County Senior Babe Ruth team’s Southwest Regional championship. It’s also a longstanding tradition for players coming all across the country — and just outside of it, even — as families get to meet the fresh faces of baseball.

After a year of college, Friesz and Kolb will be treated to a different type of room and board. Friesz, an infielder, redshirted as a freshman at Lamar, and Kolb, an outfielder, is heading into his second season at the University of the Southwest in New Mexico.

They are among four Mid-County players who are on college rosters. Devaun Anderson of Port Arthur is a right fielder at Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University, and pitcher Kyler Bumstead of Kountze redshirted at Alvin Community College.

Another Mid-County pitcher, recent Port Neches-Groves graduate Brandon Morse, officially signed with Paris Junior College on Wednesday.

Mid-County manager Ben Rogers said the four older players bring a “no-panic, matter-of-fact” attitude to the team.

“All those guys were on the team when they lost to Alabama at the regional [last year],” Rogers said. “They didn’t want to have that feeling again.”

They won’t. Mid-County knocked off defending World Series champion Mobile County, Alabama, twice in this year’s Southwest Regional in Dumas, located on the Texas Panhandle, to advance to Ephrata.

Mid-County held its final scrimmage at Metreyon-Delahoussaye Field on Tuesday beating its alumni squad 8-1. The regional champs will fly from Houston to Seattle on Thursday and will ride almost 3 hours to the central Washington town of approximately 8,000, where they’ll begin their tournament run against the North Washington state champion at 6:30 p.m. Central on Saturday. The top three teams from both American and National divisions after four games of pool play will play in a single-elimination tournament that starts Aug. 10.

The collegians have imparted some knowledge of playing at a higher level with their Mid-County teammates.

“Going from high school to college, the game’s a whole lot faster, and it’s a whole lot more competitive in every way,” Kolb said. “Guys are bigger, guys are faster and guys are stronger.”

Mid-County is making either its eighth or ninth appearance in the World Series, according to Rogers, and first since losing to Mobile County in the 2013 final in Andalusia, Alabama. The team first qualified in 1995.

Having taken down Mobile County, the Nederland-based team could be a favorite to begin its own reign.

“I’ve been at this with this team for the third year,” Kolb said. “After dealing with Alabama the past two years, to actually beat them and get to go do something everybody looks forward to doing, which is going to the World Series, it’s a big deal, especially for the coaches who’ve been here for a long time, too.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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