OCRA T-ball team defeats Sebring and takes crown

OKEECHOBEE — The players might be small in stature but they are large in heart.

Okeechobee won the District 8 Dixie Youth T-ball tournament Sunday as they defeated the Sebring All-Stars, 24-23 on a walk-off double by David Busbin.

Okeechobee had won the first game of the best-of-three series on Saturday, 29-20, and Sunday’s victory finished off the sweep.

Okeechobee will advance to the July 9 state tournament in Bristol.

The team still has work to do as they must raise money for travel and motel accommodations. Okeechobee coach Kyle Bucker said they are working on various fundraisers which include sponsorships for a t-shirt and a banner.

The team will need to raise approximately $5,000 for the near week-long trip.

“I feel that we played well. I’m proud that we fought from beginning to the end. We were behind in both games. We won in the last few innings. I feel real good about the fight we showed and the comebacks,” he said.

The Okeechobee roster included Matthew Beville, Carson Buckner, David Busbin, Cody Clanton, Hunter Clark, Jesse Gabbard, Ruben Guerrero, Kylar Koedam, EJ McQueen, Juan Ramos, Nathan Santiago, and Kacyn Vaughn.

The Okeechobee coaches included James Beville, Bobby Koedam and Leighia Murphy.

Each team was given no more than 10 batters per inning. Each team also had three outs per inning, the standard baseball rule.

In game one Saturday, Okeechobee, as the away team, jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead as Gabbard and Koedam had RBI singles. Sebring answered with a seven-run rally in their first at bat to take a 7-4 lead.

Talon Collar #12 awaits a throw as Jesse Gabbard of Okeechobee races to third base during Saturday’s T-ball tournament. Photo by Charles Murphy.

Talon Collar #12 awaits a throw as Jesse Gabbard of Okeechobee races to third base during Saturday’s T-ball tournament. Photo by Charles Murphy.

It was a sign of things to come as both teams swung the bats well. Okeechobee took a 10-7 lead in the second thanks to an RBI single by McQueen and an RBI double by Beville. Guerrero added a two-run homerun and Gabbard a solo shot. Sebring came back with four runs in the bottom of the second.

Okeechobee scored twice in the third as McQueen and Busbin had RBI singles. Sebring responded with an seven-run rally in the third for an 18-12 lead. Okeechobee rallied for five runs in the fourth as Guerrero, Buckner and Clanton had RBI singles.

Sebring was held to one run in the fourth which made the score Sebring 19, Okeechobee 17, at the end of four. Okeechobee scored seven times in the fifth to take control of the game. Guerrero had an RBI triple, Koedam an RBI triple, and Ramos a bases clearing single to give Okeechobee a 24-19 lead.
Sebring failed to score in the fifth as Okeechobee made three nice defensive plays.

The bats continued to scorch the ball in the sixth for Okeechobee as they put up five runs to take a 29-19 lead.

Sebring had to score 10 runs to tie in the sixth and were eliminated when Okeechobee recorded an out on an infield ground ball.

Buckner said he was happy with the progress his team made this year. Sebring has won 12 of the past 13 district tournaments.

Sunday was another back-and-forth game as Sebring took the early lead but Okeechobee rallied. The winning run game on a walkoff double by Busbin which scored McQueen in the bottom of the sixth inning. Gabbard hit another homerun for Okeechobee.

Buckner said if anyone is interested in contributing to the team’s fundraisers they can call him at 407-552-8975.


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