The Clarksdale Thunder 11U baseball all-stars have accumulated back-to-back state championships and were Dizzy Dean World Series champions once out of the past two seasons. The Thunder finished the 2023 Dizzy Dean World Series as the runner-up. Michael Stonestreet, Jonathan Flowers, Reed Dill, and Landen Maddox made the All-Tournament Team for their performance in the World Series.
“These kids have worked hard in the last two years,” said Shaun Redwine, a coach for the Thunder. “They’ve put in so much work. It paid off with back-to-back state championships. We came up a little short today trying to go back-to-back in the World Series, but we’re here. We set the standard, and I hope we can have other teams follow in our footsteps here in the future.”
Dizzy Dean World Series games were held at Snowden Grove Park in Southaven from Tuesday through Friday. Three teams from Mississippi participated, along with two teams from Georgia and one from Florida. The Thunder won two out of their four 2023 World Series games.
The Thunder fell to the Oregon Park Sharks out of Georgia 10-5 in the championship round. The Thunder defeated the Eagles 10-5 to advance to the championship game, lost 8-5 to the Sharks in the second round, and opened with an 11-3 victory against the Eagles.
In the championship game, the Thunder fell behind 3-0 at the end of the first inning but had several opportunities to come back. Dill walked, stole second and third base with two outs in the top of the second inning. The Sharks’ third baseman dropped the ball as Dill stole third. The error enabled him to score on the play and cut the Sharks’ lead to 3-1.
The following batter, Conner Lunceford, was hit by a pitch and went down to the ground. He was able to shake it off, take first base, steal second and third bases, but he was left stranded.
Another two-out rally in the top of the third inning helped the Thunder cut into a five-run deficit. The Sharks led 6-1 after two innings, but Flowers reached base, stole second and third, and scored when Heith Alan Freeman reached on an RBI. Freeman advanced to third base and scored on a wild pitch to cut the Sharks’ advantage to 6-3. Stonestreet reached base, stole second and third, but was left stranded.
The Sharks once again extended their lead to five runs and held an 8-3 advantage at the end of the third inning. Dill walked to lead off the top of the fourth, stole second base, and scored on a Jack Webb sacrifice fly. The second batter of the inning, Lunceford, reached base and scored on a wild pitch to once again pull the Thunder to within three at 8-5.
The Sharks scored one run in the bottom of the fourth and another in the bottom of the fifth before time ran out to secure the 10-5 victory. Redwine praised his athletes for cutting into the deficit every time the Sharks extended their lead.
“That’s what these kids are all about,” he said. “They will fight and give you everything they have until the last inning, last minute.”
Time ran out during the bottom of the fifth inning, but Redwine felt the Thunder would have had an opportunity to come from behind had the contest gone the maximum six innings.
“Our kids were fighting up until they called the game,” he said. “There’s no quit in these guys, and I’m super proud of them. The more bats we have, the more chances we get. I always believe we can come back from whatever deficit we’re in.”
Maddox was the starting pitcher for the Thunder and went one inning, giving up three runs and two walks. Flowers threw two innings, giving up five runs and one walk. Stonestreet gave up two runs and one walk in one-plus innings.
“Our biggest assets here were pitching and defense for the most part,” Redwine said. “You’ve got to take your hat off to Oregon Park. They hit the ball today, which a lot of teams haven’t been able to do against us. We’ve come a long way, even from last year to this point. We just look to move forward in the future.”
The Thunder managed to keep things more respectable with some defensive plays. The Sharks attempted to steal home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second inning. However, Thunder catcher Hunter Marley tagged the runner out at home to end the inning. The Thunder were able to prevent more runs from scoring in the bottom of the third by forcing a runner out at second base on a ground ball. Stonestreet was at shortstop and threw the ball to the second baseman Dill, who completed the force out.
In the 10-5 victory against the Eagles, the Thunder scored five runs in the third inning. Maddox, Dill, Webb, and General McKnight all knocked in runs during the inning. Flowers got the start in the victory, giving up two runs, two hits, striking out three, and walking one in two innings. McKnight, Webb, and Lunceford had multiple hits for the Thunder. The Thunder stole 10 bases as a team.
In the 8-5 loss to the Sharks, Dill went 2-for-2 with 1 run and 1 walk, Maddox went 1-for-2 with 1 run and 1 walk, Stonestreet went 1-for-3 with 1 RBI, Freeman went 1-for-3 with 1 run, Flowers went 1-for-3 with 1 RBI, and McKnight went 1-for-2 with 1 run, 1 RBI, and 1 walk. Maddox threw 2 2/3 innings on the mound, allowing five runs on four hits and striking out one. Flowers threw 1 1/3 innings, and McKnight threw one inning.
In the 11-3 victory against the Eagles, the Thunder scored six runs in the fourth inning. McKnight and Freeman singled during the inning, Stonestreet and Maddox reached base, and Dill walked. All five hitters drove in runs during the inning. McKnight finished 2-for-4 at the plate. Five athletes on the Thunder stole at least two bases.
Flowers allowed no hits and one run in 2 2/3 innings on the mound, while striking out two and walking one. Redwine believed the athletes would benefit from facing teams outside of Mississippi in the World Series.
“When you’re able to face teams from out of state and come into an environment like this, it’s big for the kids,” he said. “When they move up and they get in these situations again, they’ve been here, they’ve done that, and they’ll know how to do it in the future.”
Redwine thanked everyone for the support over the past two years and said he was looking forward to building on the Thunder’s accomplishments.
“I’m just super proud of these coaches we’ve had on our coaching staff, and I’m proud of these kids,” he said.
Redwine expressed his admiration for the team’s resilience, stating that they never give up, even when faced with challenging situations. He is optimistic about the team’s future development and progression, eagerly looking forward to their improvement and growth.
In terms of the players’ individual journeys, Redwine has high expectations for their success in their respective high schools in the coming years. He believes that regardless of the schools they choose to attend, they will be valuable assets to any program they join. Redwine emphasizes that the team is talented overall, including those who may not have received significant playing time. He believes their hard work and dedication should be acknowledged, as they have put in just as much effort. He is confident that they will make significant contributions to any program they decide to be a part of.