E-National team excited about state berth   

By Tim Chambers
star staff
tchambers@starhq.com

  If you happen to be traveling down I-40 west this afternoon, don't be surprised if you pass 14 young men grinning from ear to ear, anxiously awaiting their first-ever Little League baseball game in the state tournament.
  The Elizabethton 11-year-old all stars are state tournament bound, where they will take part in a pre-game picnic Friday night at 6.
  Many of these boys were able to witness what took place in early March when Unaka captured the state basketball championship, and nothing would please these young men more than to bring back that coveted prize.
  "I think this is a great opportunity for us," said Sean Bentley. "We are the first team to ever play at the state, and we want to win it all."
  Jake Howell added, "It feels great knowing that the first year they ever sanctioned this tournament that we get to play in the state. It's an honor just to go and take part in it."
  While some stated they were nervous, others seem to like their chances.
  "I just want to go down there and whoop up on some teams," stated Casey Sheffield.
  Added twin brother Stacey: "We're going down there to try and kick some behind. I want to win this thing for all of Elizabethton."
  C.J. Bowling was more reserve after thinking over his answer.
  "I feel kind of nervous, but I am excited about playing different teams. I would love to bring that first-place trophy back."
  Brooks Cochran, the smallest player on the team, was big on his team's chances.
  "I think we are going to bring home a state championship," he said. "We've going to give it our best shot."
  "Its exciting to know you will play teams you've never seen before," added Seth Fleenor. "I'm looking forward to playing better teams."
  Many team members expressed the importance of having a good time.
  "I'm excited about playing but I want to have a good time in doing so," added infielder Clayton Ray.
  Nick Campbell added: "It's quite an honor for us to go because many teams don't get this chance of playing in the state tournament."
  Some of the players felt like teamwork was an important ingredient in getting them to the big show.
  "It took teamwork and every player doing their job for us to get here," added Lucas Birchfield.
  "Playing as a team got us here and we are excited about our chances," echoed Corey Beam. "It feels good getting to go this far and play," stated Taylor Gouge. "We are going to play hard and do our best."
  Elizabethton has steamrolled its competition, knocking off the Johnson City Majors 11-1, Boone 14-3, Carter County Americans 9-1 and Boone in the championship 14-3 to earn its way to the big dance.
  "It sure does mean a great deal knowing we are the first team to ever go to the state," said Josh Peterson. "I think we can win it all."
  Elizabethton will take part in the opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. Saturday before taking on Sparta at 3:30 in the first round of tournament play. 2004 has been a great year for Carter County, with Unaka, and the Elizabethton 4x800 track team collecting state championships. A third time would be a charm.
  Cody Hill's short answer summed up everything, "sweet man, fellas sweet."
  A state championship would be the icing on the cake for 14 young men who are anxiously awaiting Saturday afternoon.
  Coach Richard Sheffield had 12-year-olds Drew Chambers and Jake Hodge throw batting practice Thursday night before departing to Charlotte, Tenn., this afternoon.
  "I wanted them to see some fast pitching, and these two boys can bring the heat," he said.
  "I just proud of these kids and my assistant coaches Phil Vines and Mike Fleenor," said Sheffield. "Everyone has worked hard up to this point."
  Sheffield closed in saying, "We're going to take them one game at a time. We will give it our best shot."