8U All-Stars come up short in World Series

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee eight and under All-Stars battled hard but couldn’t come away with the championship in the Dixie Youth World Series held in Lumberton, N.C. from July 27 through July 29, 2018.

The 8U All-Stars had ridden a wave of momentum throughout the district and state championships, but that momentum wasn’t quite enough to carry them to the finish line. Still, coach Ruben Guerrero is proud of his team.

This is the Okeechobee 8U All-Stars, shortly after defeating Lumberton in their last game of the 2018 Dixie Youth World Series. Special to the Okeechobee News.

“They did an excellent job,” said Guerrero, “they played well and they represented both Florida and Okeechobee well. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”

The All-Stars faced the South Carolina team for their first game and despite going up in the early innings, South Carolina was able to come back and win 11-6. Next Okeechobee faces Texas in game that got away from the All-Stars and saw them fall 15-3.

“We were just over-matched against Texas,” explained Guerrero. “They say everything is bigger in Texas, and those were some big boys.”

One factor the All-Stars had to deal with was the change in pitching style that came with playing in the World Series. Throughout their season, the All-Stars had played with machine pitching, but in the World Series they were forced to switch to having a coach pitch. And, the All-Stars had to make that adjustment while facing the best teams in the country, all who had been already using coach pitch throughout their respective seasons.

“In the future I think the Florida teams have to be on the same page, either we go with machine pitch or coach pitch,” said Guerrero. “It’s hard to make that adjustment in the World Series.”

The All-Stars third game against Georgia was called ‘one of the best games in the whole tournament’ by one of the announcers calling the game for the audience watching online. Both defenses made great plays, but some baserunning mistakes came back to haunt Okeechobee and they fell 2-1.

The final game saw Okeechobee facing the hometown team Lumberton, and also saw Okeechobee get back some of their swagger that they flashed in the district and state tournament. The All-Stars rolled over Lumberton 16-7.

“It was an awesome experience for the kids,” Guerrero said. “That town did so much for them, Lumberton was awesome. The kids made pins and it was great seeing them talk to the kids on other teams and watch them trade pins with each other. I think they enjoyed that the most, collecting all the pins from different states.”

Now the players that made up the 8U team will move on to the 9 and 10-year-old division, and they’ll adjust to the next change in their game, having a player pitch instead of a machine or coach.

“We’re going to try to keep these kids together,” said Guerrero. “I’m super excited for next year, but my main goal is when all these kids turn 10, we make another run at the state title and the World Series.”


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