Lamar senior infielder Eli Huebner was grateful for the opportunity, even if it didn’t end like he would have hoped.

Huebner had District 5’s lone RBI in a 16-1 loss to District 1 in Thursday night’s championship round of the State Games of Mississippi’s All-Star baseball tournament at Meridian Community College. One of several local players to make District 5’s roster, Huebner said the experience wasn’t just about baseball but about what he could experience as a future college athlete.

“It was definitely life-changing,” Huebner said. “I’m beginning to understand what college is really about and what our schedule may be like and what living in the dorms feels like.”

District 5 won its contests Tuesday and Wednesday but dropped Thursday’s game against District 7. Despite Thursday’s loss, District 5 still won its pool, setting up the gold medal game against District 1 Thursday evening.

After winning the gold last year, District 5 was hoping to defend its State Games All-Star baseball championship and had eight area players make the team: Cal Culpepper, Houston Wedgeworth, Walker Swearingen and Colson Thompson from Clarkdale, Jackson Parker from West Lauderdale and Trace Roy and John Carter Kennedy from Enterprise, in addition to Huebner. 

“It was great,” said Chandler Blakeney, assistant baseball coach at Clarkdale and one of District 5’s coaches. “We had a great group. I got a chance to coach four of our Clarkdale guys, and we had a lot of local guys around here, so it was a lot of fun. I thought they played hard. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but it was a fun week for us.”

Getting the chance to coach so many talented players was both enjoyable and educational for Blakeney.

“I volunteered to do this because I like being around these high-caliber players, and I enjoy being around guys like these,” Blakeney said. “I feel like it makes me better as a coach, and it’s good for the guys to play against these other high-caliber players and see competition like this.”

One of the main things Huebner said he’ll take away from the experience is the camaraderie he developed with the other District 5 players.

“We learned a lot about each other and who we are as baseball players and came to understand that life is about more than baseball,” Huebner said.

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