YOUTH BASEBALL: Gold Country Bears gear up for national tourney | TheUnion.com

YOUTH BASEBALL: Gold Country Bears gear up for national tourney

For the Gold Country Bears 13U baseball team, the entire season has led up to one final tournament. One last chance to represent Nevada County baseball, and this time against competition from all over the United States at the Youth Baseball National Tournament in Sparks, Nevada June 16-22.

"We've built to this," head coach Russell Brackett said. "Our practices and other tournaments have all built toward this big tournament. These boys have never done anything like this. We want it to be like their World Series."

The 13U Bears, of the Gold Country Baseball Academy in Grass Valley, are a tight-knit group of local ballers who head into the national tournament having won two of their last three regional tournaments.

"This team has an inseparable bond that we play with," said Anthony Packard, who plays third base, outfield and pitcher for the Bears. "We play for each other."

Their bond is what makes them a contender in any game they play, and will make them a contender in the national tourney, said Brackett.

"I've been really impressed with how they've come together," he said. "They trust each other and they have each other's back, and that's what matters. These kids are unbelievable when it comes to their camaraderie and their belief in each other."

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This sleuth of Bears marches into the national tournament with confidence after winning two regional tourneys this season and making it to at least the semifinals in four of the six they played in.

"I think these boys are going to compete and I expect them to do well, if not win," said Brackett. "I think we are going to have a good showing, not only from a win-loss standpoint, but hopefully other teams will leave saying, 'they play the right way.'"

Luke Barrieau, a first baseman and pitcher for the Bears, has confidence his team has what it takes to compete on a national stage.

"We've really meshed as a team, we have really good chemistry and we have the talent level to win," Barrieau said. "It's all about taking it pitch by pitch and inning by inning. Win every inning — win the game."

ON THE FIELD

As for what makes the team a force on the field, it's their prowess at the plate. Brackett said his team is averaging about 10 runs per game across the six tournaments they have competed in. In their last tournament, they scored 38 runs in their first two games, leading to a pair of mercy-rule wins.

The Bears are no slouches on the mound either, boasting several arms they can call upon, which will be very important at a five-day tourney like the one coming up.

"We have a ton of pitching," Brackett said. "They know how to compete, know how to keep runners on, and what been nice is our defense has really come along."

COUNTY PRIDE

For many of the Bears players they are excited to represent Nevada County baseball against teams from other states.

"It's an awesome feeling to be able to play with these guys and represent Nevada County in a good way," said Barrieau, who admitted he sleeps in his game jersey the night before a tourney. "When you put that jersey on, you are representing the county, and it makes me feel good. When we win games and win tournaments, it brings pride to the county."

Brackett, who designs the Bears uniforms, said he purposefully placed an outline of Nevada County on the back of the team's jerseys.

"I put the county on the back of jerseys because the county always has your back," Brackett said. "We are trying to represent the area in a way that is respectful and that they understand what they are doing matters."

THE TEAM

The 13U Bears are comprised of Luke Barrieau, Nick Baltz, Daniel Bamburg, Caiden Hiles, Kadin Dooley, Trevor Davis, Colby Lunsford, Brennan Schad, Anthony Packard, Matthew Sandstedt, Nate Becker, Zach Hurst and Shane Clinkinbeard. They are coached by head coach Brackett and assistant coaches Mike Barrieau, Shaun Clinkinbeard and Austin Butler.

AN ACADEMY FIRST

This is the first time the Gold Country Baseball Academy has had a spring team, because the season coincides with the Little League season. Brackett said he put this team together because there was a call for it.

"We didn't make this team. These kids made this team," he said. "They said, 'hey coach, we want to keep doing this — is there a way?' When they said that in the fall, I said I would find a way to help them carry on."

The 13U Bears are the academy's only team competing during the spring season.

RECENT SUCCESS

The Gold Country Baseball Academy is still relatively new, having opened in 2015 but has quickly found success, winning several regional tournaments at multiple age groups. Last year, the Bears 18U team won the All World Sports World Series in Sparks, Nevada.

For more information about the Gold Country Baseball Academy visit https://goldcountrybears.com.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.