OKEECHOBEE — Two Okeechobee All-Star teams will compete this weekend in State Dixie Youth Baseball championship tournaments.
The AA, or pitching machine all-stars, ages 7-8, won the District 8 championship with victories over Lake Placid and Avon Park in June. They begin play Saturday in Sebring at the State Tournament.
The pitching machine all-stars, ages 7-8, are coached by Willie Hall, Matt Durno, Mondo Cruz and Scott Blomefield.
The roster includes Gaven Collier, Ethan Blomefield, Andre Santiago, Hayden Saunders, Alec Suarez, Trace Ellerbee, Kaden Whidden, Ziryn Flores, Conner Goodbread, Luke Hayes, Caleb Cruz, and Mason Kindell.
The Dixie boys team comprised of children ages 13-14 will compete in the state tournament in Marianna.
The roster includes Dustin Mansfield, Corey Coleman, Lane Thomas, Tyler Smith, Mark Holmes, Ethan Durfee, Eric Calderon, Dakota Hart, Deven Tedders, Jay Krall, Darian Deck and Ethyn Johnson. They are coached by Dylan Tedders, Jake Davenport and Jeff Krall.
The team opens play on Saturday against Wesley Chapel of Pasco County. The tournament includes 10 teams from across the state and is a double-elimination event.
Coach Tedders said the goal of the team is to get the eighth grade players ready to play high school baseball next year.
“We have done a lot of throwing and swinging the bat in practice. We’ve had to work around a lot of vacations and have yet to have a full squad practice,” he noted.
Tedders said he has seen improvement in the young men with stronger throwing arms and more contact at the plate. He said the key for the team’s performance at the state tournament will be how well they play defense.
“We should be able to catch the ball because they are all-stars and are good athletes. There are definitely some future varsity players out here,” he added.
The team includes OCRA veterans and also some travel ball players.
Mark Holmes, 14, will bat third and is expected to be the team’s best power threat. He attended Osceola Middle School last year. He could compete in the state homerun derby. He plays for the Martin County North Stars in Stuart.
His favorite player is Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles.
“I hope we go up there and win. I’m not intimidated,” he added.
Coach Tedders said Holmes will pitch and play third base and shows good hands at the plate. He is also larger than the other players so he expects opposition pitchers to pitch him carefully.
Another key player will be Corey Coleman. He plays travel ball for the Fort Pierce Prospects. He will play catcher, short stop and pitcher. He also played basketball at Yearling Middle School this past season. He is the son of Michelle and David Coleman Sr.
“It’s been a lot of fun out here and the team is looking good, better than ever. My entire family played baseball. I think the competition will be better than what we are used to in Okeechobee. Most of the players play all year round,” Coleman said.
Coach Tedders said other key opponents will be Belleview, West Volusia, Chipley and Lake Placid.
He wanted to thank OCRA for their fund raising which helped to offset the costs of food for the players and motel rooms for their families in Marianna.
“OCRA and President Lawrence Fipps had a very smooth year. They were basically a new organization this year and things went pretty smooth. I give kudos to those guys and gals,” he added.
In OCRA Softball the Darlings and Angels All-Stars were eliminated in the first two games at state last weekend. The Ponytails won one game out of three. The 18 and under debs played for the state championship on Monday at but lost to West Pasco and ended as state runner up.
The Ponytails squad includes Kalyn Hammil, Elle Thomas, Janessa Nunez, Joy Whipple, Kiley Sadler, Kaylie Huff, Caylie Huff, Mallorie Thomas, Priscilla Rodriguez, Kameron Allen, Kirsten Nunez, and Abigail Smith. The Ponytails coaches included Dallas Nunez, Heath Whipple and Elia Suarez.
The Debs 18 and under squad includes Adella Nunez, Jessieca Pittman, Kara Adams, Brooke Santiago, Cady Osceola, Alexi Morgan, Erin Grace, Kaitlyn Wilson, Yasmina Vega, Brittanie Mellette, Taylor Carter and Melanie Watson.
The Debs coaches consisted of Gilbert and Tamera Nunez and Jose Banuelos.