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The Shelby County 12-year-old Cal Ripken all-star baseball team isn’t your usual conglomeration.
“We’re a very young, kind of inexperienced all-star team,” head coach Mitchell Tinsley said. “Half of our roster has previously been on all-star teams before, the other half is just kind of learning what the all-star experience is all about.”
But Tinsley is happy with the strides his team has made so far, especially in finishing as runner-up in the District 2 Tournament (i.e. its “trial by fire,” according to Tinsley).
“I’m very proud of them and the progress they’ve made in the two weeks we’ve been working,” Tinsley said earlier this week.
Shelby County begins play in the 2013 East Kentucky Cal Ripken Major 60 State Tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday night, when it meets the winner of tonight’s opening-round game between host South Lexington and District 6 winner Bath County at Shillito Park in Lexington. If Shelby wins that game it will play at 8 p.m. Friday night on Field 4, if it loses it will play at 8 p.m. Friday on Field 1. The complete bracket can be viewed at www.eastkybrl.com/2013/states/12m60/st12.60.htm.
The winner of the tournament advances to the national regional in Vincennes, Ind. July 24-29.
In preparation for State, Shelby County went 3-1 at a tournament in Frankfort before finishing second in the district tournament in Georgetown. Shelby lost its first game to host Scott County 26-3, but bounced back to beat Henry County 10-3 before falling to Scott again, this time 11-0, in the district final.
“We more or less ran into a Scott County team that is one of the more powerful teams in the state, and they taught the young ones a quick lesson,” Tinsley said. “But [my team] showed me they will battle and they will play hard because they came back the second game and beat Henry County.
“The thing that I was proud of, the kids, the second time they ran into Scott County it was a more competitive game.”
Shelby County hit just .200 in the District 2 Tournament.
“We’ve been a little bit inconsistent [at the plate], especially during the Scott County tournament,” Tinsley said. “We have our good moments and our bad.”
Jake Thompson went 1-for-2 with three walks in three games, while Tannor Mills hit .400 and Garrett Jeffries .333 for Shelby in the district tourney. Tinsley said the team would also rely on Max Beard, Tait Cox, Cody Decker and Michael Lonak at the plate, as well as leadoff hitter Kyion Stone.
“He’s an extremely fast kid when we can get him on base,” Tinsley said of Stone. “He can steal a base in the time it takes for the catcher to throw the ball back to the pitcher.”
Beard is the squad’s No. 1 pitcher, Tinsley said, while Jeffries is No. 2.
Meanwhile Ethan Pruitt led Shelby County in the field in the district tourney. The first baseman had a 1.000 fielding percentage, cleanly fielding all seven of his opportunities.
“We play pretty solid defense, that’s one of the things I’ve been happy with so far," Tinsley said. "Whether our offense shows up or not, defense will keep us in ball games and give us an opportunity to win.”
Other members of the team include Tyler Ritchey, Hunter Warford, Rafael Ruiz, Grant Early and Will Stivers.