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Heading into this week’s 10-year-old Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional All-Star tournament at the Ward Correll Sports Complex in Somerset, LaRue County coach Todd Morris is pretty confident in his team’s pitching and defense.
It’s the offense that’s still developing for LaRue County, which didn’t have a hit through the first four innings in its 4-2 win over the Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission in the West Kentucky State Tournament championship last week.
To help his players get ready for the regional, which begins with pool play Thursday, Morris brought in some of his former All-Stars to pitch batting practice to the younger team.
Morris wanted to get them accustomed to faster pitching he thinks they’ll see this week.
“We’ve been working on throwing them some faster pitches, so we’ve been cranking the speed up,” he said. “They did pretty well off of that. I hope it helps us. We want them to see faster pitching. It took them a little while to catch up to it, but once that happened, they hit it pretty well.”
If LaRue County can get its offense on pace with its pitching and defense – which didn’t allow more than three runs in a game at State – Morris likes his team’s chances of making a run at the title.
“Our pitching is great,” Morris said. “We just need to work on our hitting, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
In Pool C, LaRue County will face Wisconsin state champion Bayport at 3 p.m. Thursday, Southern Indiana champion Scott County at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Eastern Kentucky runner-up South Lexington at 2 p.m. Friday.
In Pool A, EABC will face Eastern Kentucky champion Southeastern Lexington at 1 p.m. Thursday, Northern Illinois champion Mattoon at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Northern Indiana champion South Bend at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
All 12 teams in the five-state event – which also features squads from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin – advance to the single-elimination tournament beginning Saturday morning. The times for Sunday’s semifinals and final are to be announced.
“I’m not nervous. Not one bit,” Morris said. “We’re just going down there for the fun of it. We’re not going to be the best team there, but the best team doesn’t always win. We just want to go down there and have some fun.”
Like Morris, Coach Jeff Gregory just wants the EABC 8s to have fun and not worry about winning or losing.
At this age, Gregory said it’s more important to focus on developing the skills they already have.
“At this age group, we don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “It’s not like when I was coaching the 12 year olds when I felt some because time was running out on them and they were going to be moving on to middle school and high school baseball and they only had a certain amount of games left with us. But this group now is a solid group. They have a lot of talent and we still have several years to go.”
The 20-team machine-pitch tournament is in Vincennes, Ind.
EABC takes on the Vincennes 7s at 5:30 p.m. and Schererville, Ind., at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. At 4 p.m. Friday, EABC faces Osceola, Ind.
Each team advances to the single-elimination tournament, which begins Saturday morning. The final is at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re ready to go,” Gregory said. “This is the first time this group of boys has really played together a ton. They did well as 7-year-olds and we’ve added some new kids, and they’re just learning to play together. They’re doing well and they’re gelling. We’re looking forward to going up to a good tournament.
“We hope to go up there and win it,” he added. “If we can to get to the final day on Sunday, to the final four teams, we’ll be pleased with that. We’ll just see what happens.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.