Local baseball teams wins district championship; now headed to state tournament

OKEECHOBEE — The 2018 8U Okeechobee All-Stars came away with the championship in their district tournament held in Avon Park on June 15, 16 and 17.

The All-Stars played teams from Sebring, Lake Placid and Avon Park over the course of the three-day tournament.

Front row (left to right) John Richards, Jacoah Spencer, Matthew Beville, Ruben Guerrero, Cody Clanton and Izaak Alaniz. Middle row (left to right) David Busbin, EJ McQueen, Levi Larson, Kylar Koedam and Deuce Stokes. Back row (left to right) Ruben Guerrero, Cody Clanton, James Beville and Bobby Koedam. Photos by Richard Marion.

The tournament began on June 15 with the All-Stars losing to their rival Lake Placid in a close game of 7-6. But the team was able to bounce back during the second day of tournament, beating Sebring 8-4 and Avon Park 10-7.

This led to a rematch with Lake Placid, and because Okeechobee had lost to them on the first day of the tournament it meant the All-Stars would have to beat their rival twice in back-to-back games to win the championship. Beating Lake Placid twice wouldn’t be an easy task, as they’d had just shut Avon Park 11-0 the day before the final.

True to form, Lake Placid jumped out to an 11-4 lead early in the third inning. But the young players on the All-Stars showed their resilience and were able shutdown the Lake Placid offense and battle back to take a 12-11 victory by the end of the game.

The second game wasn’t quite as dramatic, however, as Okeechobee rolled over Lake Placid 10-0 in game that had to be ended in the fourth inning due to a mercy rule.

Now the team is attempting to raise funds to help with the costs of attending the state tournament held in Bristol, Fla. on June 29 through July 4.

Okeechobee All-Star EJ McQueen practices batting while Matthew Beville catches and coach Ruben Guerrero watches in the background. Photos by Richard Marion.

Stephanie Busbin, mother of one of the players on the team, says the funds will help pay for traveling costs and a hotel for the team.

The team is offering three levels of sponsorship for businesses or individuals: gold, which costs $250 and gets the sponsor their name and logo on a t-shirt and a “thank you” plaque from the team; silver, which costs $100 and gets the sponsor their name and logo on a t-shirt; and, bronze, which covers any donation under $100 and gets the sponsor a team photo.

The All-Stars have received five gold sponsors so far from local businesses Hazellief & Prevatt Realty, Xtreme Property Services, Rite Tire, Anthony Bertram Hauling and JBL Industrial Services.

If you’d like to reach out to offer support or become a sponsor of the team, you’re encouraged to call coach Ruben Gurrero at 850-321-7795.

Also, the team is hosting a car wash at Pritchard’s Insurance on June 23 starting at 8:30 a.m. with the cost being whatever people would like to donate. The All-Stars will also be out in front of Publix on June 25 raising money by selling raffle tickets for two coolers full of fishing bait and gear.

For a few of the players on the All-Stars it will be their second trip to Bristol, as six members made it to the state tournament as t-ball players in previous years.

The team is now in the midst of practicing all week in anticipation of the tournament.

Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel E. Stephen stopped by one of their practices on June 20 to wish the team well.

Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel E. Stephen stopped by the All-Star’s practice to wish the team well in the state tournament. Photos by Richard Marion.

Lance Richard, father of one of the players and unofficial “voice of the All-Stars,” is amazed at the young team’s chemistry.

“It’s been awesome how well they’ve jelled,” explained Mr. Richards. “It looks like they’ve been playing together forever.”

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