News and Tribune
January 17, 2014
H.S. BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Four members of 2008 World Series team to face each other on Saturday
Ellis, Dale to play for Jeff; Shahroudi, Koerner to compete for Pioneers
By KEVIN HARRIS
JEFFERSONVILLE — When you hear people in Jeffersonville talk about the Jeff/GRC Little League All-Star team that went to the 2008 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., the discussions make it seem like that accomplishment only took place a couple of years ago.
But on Saturday night at Johnson Arena when four players from that team who are seniors play in the annual Jeff-Providence boys’ basketball game, those people will be wondering how time flies.
Each team will have two members from that Jeff/GRC team. They are the Red Devils’ Chandler Dale and Drew Ellis and the Pioneers’ Ben Shahroudi and Brad Koerner.
Saturday’s game will be one of the final times members from the 2008 Little League World Series squad face each other in a high school athletic contest. Shahroudi, Ellis and Dale are expected to square off this spring when they play for their respective schools in the Jeff-Providence baseball game.
“It just seems like yesterday we were having practice on the All-Star field, going over to somebody’s house and just hanging out afterwards. We were playing video games with each other and just having fun. We were not caring what was going on,” Ellis said about being a part of that special Jeff/GRC squad. “Time flies — it feels like I was just at the Little League World Series yesterday and I’d do anything to go back. We had a great time and we had a great run. Everybody is family from that team and nobody can take that away from us.”
Shahroudi says being a part of the 2008 Jeff/GRC All-Stars is something that will last a lifetime for himself and his former teammates.
“Time definitely flies and you do a lot more sports going into high school. But you definitely always remember that one year when you were 12 and you got the chance to play on television,” Shahroudi said. “That will stick with me and Brad and the rest of the kids for the rest of our lives. No matter what we go on to do with life or sports or anything like that, we’ll always have that in the back of our heads. It’s a great memory.”
The four players facing each other on Saturday and the rest of the members of the Little League World Series team have been on opposing sides several times in a few different sports since they entered high school. The rest of the World Series team members are Hayden Robb, Nick Thompson, Christopher Wenger, Josh Burke, Austin Hines, Dalton Duley and Tyler Sariscsany.
One person who has watched several of the prep meetings pitting the Little League World Series members against each other is Jeff/GRC’s manager that year, Derek Ellis.
“Now, they are seniors — they make me feel old,” joked Derek Ellis, Drew Ellis’ father and now Jeff High’s baseball coach. “You think about a lot of things [when they face each other]. You look at them as part of your family. It’s sad they are not going to compete against each other anymore [after the 2013-14 school year]. But they are fun to watch.”
The Red Devils (6-4) and the Pioneers (7-2) are expected to enter Saturday’s contest like any other game. Both will try to earn a victory to help them improve on their respective seasons so far.
But for the former World Series players, they have some extra motivation to earn some friendly bragging rights versus their ex-teammates.
“Jeff is always one of our big games. We only play three big schools in Jeff, New Albany and Floyd Central. It’s always nice to beat the big schools,” Koerner said. “Yea, it is some friendly competition with Drew and Chandler because we were friends with them from sixth grade until now. It’s always fun playing against your good friends.”
Drew Ellis says he will not treat Saturday’s matchup like any ordinary game.
“It’s definitely not like any other game. You want to show them that you’re better than them,” he said. “It’s kind of like a friendly competition. We’re going to go in there with the mindset that it is Providence. They have a great team. They always have great defensive teams. They play low-scoring games. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to them because they come out and play every single game like it’s their last.
“We’re just going to go in there and we’re going to play Jeff basketball. We’ll have a little friendly competition in there.”
But when the game is over, Dale said there will be no hard feelings. He relishes the chance to get together with a few longtime friends this weekend.
“It’ll be a great game. There will be some smiles and we’ll probably say to each other ‘good shot’ or something like that,” Dale said. “We’re going to try to get a good win against a good team. It’s going to be tough and we’ve been working hard in practice to get ready for it.”
Each of the World Series quartet says the run to Williamsport in 2008 helped prepare them to play high school athletics.
“I think it was huge benefit for them,” Derek Ellis said. “I think it helped them a tremendous amount. They did what hardly a few people get to do. They played against some of the best Little League teams in the world.”
Shahroudi says being on that worldwide stage nearly six years ago has provided him less stress playing in his high school games.
“I think the biggest effect that it had on me as a player was it took the pressure off me,” said Shahroudi, whose father Dave was the assistant coach of the 2008 Jeff/GRC All-Stars. “That was the top-of-the-line level. We were on TV. The whole city was behind us and all the news cameras [were pointed on the players]. Once you get to high school, it was like practice for the pressure, so we shouldn’t be pressured at this point because we’ve been to the top. It definitely eases the pressure during close games and big games.”
Dale said the World Series experience got him ready to play in significant contests in high school.
“I think it humbled us in a way that we were prepared for high school because every high school baseball player has that moment,” Dale said. “But I think Drew and I had [that moment] when we were 12. We were ready going [into high school]. In the big games when most people crack under the pressure, we did that when we were 12 years old. We’ve kind of been there. We’ve been through the challenges, so we’re just ready to go to battle again.”
For Drew Ellis, they say playing in the Little League World Series was a humbling experience for them.
“It humbles you definitely because no matter who you are or no matter what talent you have, there is always somebody out there that has a little more talent than you or might have put in a little bit more effort than you,” said the younger Ellis, who has signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Louisville in the 2015 season. “There is no reason for anybody to outwork you. You’ve just got to work your hardest. It’s just humbling to know that we accomplished something that a lot of people don’t get to. It just shows you how much talent there really is out there, and you should never stop working hard.”
The players on the ‘08 World Series team do not get a chance to get together all that often. They attend different high schools or colleges (Duley is a freshman on the Spalding University men’s basketball team), and do different activities.
But they do contact each other through text messaging and social media.
“About a month ago, I sent everybody a video of us introducing ourselves [on ESPN during the ‘08 Little League World Series] and who are favorite player was and we all made fun of each other,” Dale said. “We definitely stay in contact. It’s hard to meet all the time because we are high schoolers and we’re busy. We’ve kind of went our own separate ways. But before college comes, we definitely want to get together again.”
Koerner says he and Dale see each other once in a while because they live close to each other.
“Chandler does live in my neighborhood, so I see him often,” he said. “Whenever I see him, it’s just like we’re really good friends because of what we’ve been through. We don’t really keep in touch. But when we do see each other and talk about all the fun times we’ve ever had, it’s nice.”