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The Shelby County 10-year-old Cal Ripken all-star baseball team ran roughshod through the District 2 Tournament.
Now the squad, which contains several members of the 9-year-old all-star team that finished as state runner-up and advanced to the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Regional last summer, has its sights set on a state title.
“To get to the region again they have to win a state championship,” head coach Mike Hammond said. “They want to get themselves back in that position.”
Shelby County will begin that quest tomorrow night. It is scheduled to begin play at 8 p.m. Thursday (against the winner of tonight’s game between Northern and Johnson County) at Veterans Park in Lexington. If Shelby wins that game it will play at 10 a.m. Saturday, but if it loses it will play at 6 p.m. Friday. The complete tournament bracket is available at www.eastkybrl.com/2013/states/10/st10.htm.
The winner advances to the national regional, which will be played in Somerset, July 24-29.
Shelby County is coming off a very impressive run through the district tournament, in which it outscored its opponents 60-3 in three games.
“Offensively we’ve improved a lot,” Hammond said after the district tournament. “We’re not swinging at bad pitches, we’re making them [the opposing pitchers] throw strikes.”
Collectively Shelby County hit .522 in a pair of victories over Scott County and one triumph over Henry County. Tyler White led the way, hitting .700 while Nick Hammond (the coach’s son) batted .667, Ty Foree .556 and Kaden Dugle .500.
“The kids really had a great mental approach,” Hammond said.
That, Hammond said, will be key in the state tourney.
“We’re going to have to have some really good, quality at-bats. We’re going to have to make sure we’re competitive with two strikes, and get some two-out hits,” Hammond said. “The games will be played differently [than they were in the district tournament], there will be more manufacturing of runs. There will be a lot of small ball played I’d say.
“We’re excited with that type of baseball. We’ve got really good team speed, we’ve got pretty good baserunners and we feel confident we can play that way.”
Another thing Hammond is confident in is his team’s pitching staff, which combined for a 1.50 earned-run average in the district tournament. The staff is led by White, Hammond, Dugle and Kyle Sorrells.
“We’re as good as anybody in the state with those guys,” Hammond said. “That’s the strength of our team.”
The team also includes Zach Guttermuth Austin Griffin, Trenton Birchfield, Brayden LaFollette, Warren Jackson, Cooper Blair, Caleb Hawley and Blake Cook.
“We’ve had some really strong practices, the kids are working hard,” Hammond said.