Mill Creek Regional Park has been a lucky spot for the Bulloch Parks and Recreation All-Stars over the years. In 1997 the 10-u (mite) Statesboro Bulloch All-Star team won the title. The 10-u All-Stars also took home the title in 2016 at Mill Creek, and Friday morning the 2022 Bulloch 10-u All-Stars hung on for a 3-2 win over Vidalia to add to the trophy case at the BCPRD.
The team, coached by Russell Jones, Brad Riner, Jeff Mitchell and Matt Kuykendall helped lead the squad to the “triple crown” as they won the pre-district tournament in Lyons, the District tournament in Vidalia and capped it off with the state title Saturday.
“We had such a good team I told these kids anyone could have coached them to a state title,” said Jones. “We have a lot of athletes and a lot of kids who can hit the ball, but most importantly we have a great defense. Just about every kid on this team is a shortstop and can run fast. They hadn’t played a lot together but they all bought in and did whatever they could for the team to be successful.”
The Bulloch All-Stars jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first off three straight singles by Ashton Smith, Aiden Willis and Harrison Jernigan to take a 1-0 lead. Reid Coty added an RBI single and then Riles Riner capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to plate Jernigan from third.
From there the Bulloch All Stars did what they had done to get them to that point and that is to play solid defense. Vidalia scored one run in the fourth, and added another in the fifth, but in the sixth and final inning Bulloch set Vidalia down in order and the celebration began.
“We have relied on our defense throughout this run and they were stingy again today,” said Jones. “We knew Vidalia would try and bunt and try and run and we were ready for it and did a great job of executing. They hit the ball good and punched back, but we made the plays when we needed to.”
For Jones the victory was even more special with his history at Mill Creek Park. In the first year of Mill Creek's existence, Jones hit his first ever little league home run on the same field he helped coach his son to the victory Friday. He was also in the stands in 1997 when his brother David's team won the state title.
“Our whole family played plenty of games through the Bulloch recreation department and it’s so cool to be able to see my son be a part of it,” said Jones. “My parents were always here for us and now to be there with my son is very special.”
Among the spectators on hand was Statesboro High athletic standout Kam Mikell who was a part of the last Bulloch All-Star team to win the state title in 2015.
“I remember the excitement of winning the state in 2015,” said Mikell. “I’m sure we all had those same happy looks on our faces. I just thought it would be nice to come back out here and support these young guys. I loved playing back then and these are the moments you will always remember.”
The game saw full stands on both sides of the field and according to BCPRD Athletics Manager Dadrian Cosby all three tournaments hosted this week at Mill Creek Park proved to be very successful.
“This is the same age group that won in 97 and 2015 and it’s always a thrill to see the home town team hoist the trophy at the end of it all,” said Cosby. “This has been a great week on and off the field. We had some things in place in case the heat got unbearable but thankfully we had a good breeze going the past few days and didn’t have to take extreme measures.”
“We have had great attendance in all three tournaments,” said Cosby. “We also hosted the 8-u and 12-u state and we heard plenty of positive feedback from the families and we are hopeful we can host again very soon.”