Okeechobee rallies in state tournament to earn ticket to World Series

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee 8U All-Stars were losing 4-8 to Bartow in the fifth inning when the umpire attempted to call the game. After winning the three previous games in the state tournament, Okeechobee was staring down it’s first loss.

Head coach Ruben Guerrero raced onto the field to make the case that his team still had time, and the ability, to pull off a comeback.

The Okeechobee 8U All-Stars at their final practice in Okeechobee before heading to Lumberton, N.C. to represent Florida in the 2018 World Series. Photo by Richard Marion/Okeechobee News.

Guerrero was able to convince the umpire to give his team a chance to finish the game, then it was up to the kids to actually pull off the rally.
And they did.

Okeechobee’s defense stifled Bartow’s offense with a three-up and three-down top of the sixth, and then scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to win the game.

“That right there shows the character of this team,” said Guerrero. “They just don’t know how to lose. We knew if we could get that last at-bat, we’d have a good chance of coming back and winning that game.”

The All-Stars knocked out five straight wins to open up the tournament, beating Springhill 7-6, Marianna 17-1, Brookesville 15-2, Bartow 9-8, and West Volusia 11-1. But it was Bartow that would exact some revenge on Okeechobee and hand them their first loss of the tournament 0-4 in the sixth game.

After winning another game against Marianna, the All-Stars earned the right to face Bartow one more time. Bartow took an early 0-6 lead in the first inning and Okeechobee was behind on the scoreboard for the rest of the game. But, in dramatic fashion, the All-Stars had another huge sixth inning, coming back to win 11-10.

Although they would come up short in the championship game against Springhill, their second-place finish earned them a ticket to the World Series in Lumberton, N.C. which begins on July 28.

The team spent the weeks leading up the World Series practicing and raising funds to pay for travel costs. And although the World Series will be a new experience for the team, Guerrero says that the All-Stars aren’t changing how they prepare.

“Nothing is changing from what we did to get ready for districts and state,” said Guerrero.

“We’re gonna play our style of game, do what we normally do and go out there and play Okeechobee baseball. We want to treat this as just another game, like we have this whole year. There might be more people watching, and a fancier field, but it’s still the same game.

Just gotta hit the ball, catch the ball and throw the ball.”

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