The Greenbrier 8U all-stars are trading their green jerseys for orange ones as they continue to honor a fallen teammate.
Greenbrier won nine games in four days to take first place at the Tennessee Dixie Youth state tournament in Henderson July 7. The team will represent Tennessee in the Dixie Youth Coach Pitch World Series July 26-30 in Ruston, Louisiana.
“Coming into this year, most people expected us to win,” Greenbrier coach Josh Pulley said. “It’s nice to achieve our goal. Our ultimate goal is to go to the World Series, compete and hopefully win. But it was nice to win our state championship.”
Those high expectations came after the team won the 6U state championship in 2017 and followed it with a berth in the Machine Pitch Dixie Youth World Series last year – an opportunity given to the state runner-up. Greenbrier placed fifth.
Braxton Fuqua was a member of the 2017 team that won the state tournament. He was diagnosed with cancer in early 2018 and lost his battle with the disease May 29. He was just eight years old.
The team rallied behind Fuqua while he was sick and has continued to play in his honor since his passing. Nicole Turnbow, Braxton’s mother, attended this year’s state tournament.
“We had a nine-inning game on Saturday night, and the kids were saying, ‘Let’s win it for Braxton. Let’s do this for Braxton,’” Pulley said.
Pulley said Fuqua’s death has been difficult for everyone involved with the Greenbrier Little League, especially the adults.
“It’s been harder on the adults,” Pulley said. “I don’t think the kids processed it 100 percent. They know he’s not coming back. But they did a good job of playing hard and playing in his honor and his name.”
Greenbrier beat Harriman, Selmer, Lookout Mountain and Madison South in pool play action. The all-stars then topped Sweetwater, Dickson and Wayne County in bracket play, before taking the championship with an 8-0 shutout of Dickson last Sunday.
Five of Greenbrier’s nine wins were shutouts. Despite averaging nearly 12 runs per game in the state tournament, Pulley said the team’s strength is defense.
“Our defense is what’s going to carry us,” he said. “And that’s with coaches pitching it to their kids and making it look like a volleyball.”
Greenbrier will wear orange uniforms and be rebranded as Team Tennessee for the World Series. The team will take on Texas and Louisiana in pool play, with two teams from each pool advancing to bracket play.
The all-stars took just one day off after winning the state championship. Greenbrier will spend the next two weeks preparing for their trip to Ruston.
“We’re very excited,” Pulley said. “We’ve just got to play hard, keep battling and do it for Braxton.”
Field 2 at Louise Martin Park has been named Braxton Fuqua Memorial Field, and a mural of Fuqua was painted in the home dugout. A ceremony to officially rename the field will be held Saturday, July 20.