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Marion likes its chances as regional host

Staff writer

Head coach Scott Heidebrecht told his team of 12- year-olds that they need to raise their competitive level for the state tournament.

The team will have to take another step up to contend in the regional tournament beginning Friday in Marion. The All-Stars play at 7 p.m. Friday against the second-place Missouri team.

The All-Stars will compete with two teams from Missouri and Nebraska, and teams from Colorado, Minnesota, and Ottawa. The winner of the regional tournament will compete in the World Series on Aug 12 in Aberdeen, Md.

“That’s all these kids live for,” Heidebrecht said of the competition.

The 12-year-old Cottonwood Valley All-Stars finished fourth in the state tournament July 18 in Scott City.

Heidebrecht said the squad of eight players from Marion, two from the Centre-area, and one from Chase County had two bad innings in the entire tournament. If more bounces had gone the All-Stars’ way, the team could have been in the championship game.

One of the All-Stars’ strengths is pitching. The Cottonwood team has seven players who can pitch. Cal Ripken rules keep players from pitching more than six innings in consecutive days.

“As far as we’re concerned, you can’t have too many pitchers,” Heidbrecht said.

Heidebrecht said the team’s other strength is defense. It was out of character that defensive miscues led to the two big innings in Scott City, one of which occurred in a 12-3 loss to Kansas champion Ottawa. The coach was pleased that his players did not let the mistakes stay with them. They were disappointed with fourth-place but kept their heads high.

“They weren’t down on themselves,” Heidebrecht said. “They know what they did wrong; we don’t sit there and go over and over it.”

Although they have not mentioned their feelings to their coach, Heidebrecht can see the excitement in his team with the prospect of the regional tournament.

“They know we have a possibility of doing something good,” Heidebrecht said. “They know that if they keep hitting the ball, we’re going to score; we have a lot of speed.”

Offense has been the All-Stars focus this past week. The team has taken soft toss and has seen live pitching from each of their three coaches — Heidebrecht, Randy Savage, and Jim Srajer.

The coaching staff has thrown more off-speed pitches with the anticipation that they will see more changeups from the higher-level competition. Even at the state level, Heidbrecht said opposing pitchers were throwing breaking pitches, curves and sliders.

The All-Stars coach said one of the nerve-wracking aspects of the regional tournament is that the team does not know what to expect from the competition.

He knows a team from Minnesota finished third in the Cal Ripken World Series last year. But, he also thinks that Minnesota and Colorado, who practice indoors, may be affected by the Kansas heat. A high temperature of 105 is being forecast for Saturday.

What Heidebrecht does expect to see from the competition is good pitching and stout defense. He suspects that there will be no easy outs in opposing regional lineups.

“These kids will hit the ball,” Heidebrecht said. “It’s not like in rec league where you maybe have one good hitter. They’ll get ahold of one and send it to the outfield.”

Fundamentals and focus will be important for the All-Stars. Heidebrecht gave the example of backing up bases.

“It’s all about backing the base up in front of you,” Heidebrecht said. “If you don’t, then the merry-go-round turns; instead of one run, they score two or three.”

One worry Heidbrecht will not have is how the team will represent Marion in the tournament. The All-Stars won the sportsmanship award at state last weekend.

Allison Shults, whose son Bryce plays on the team, said it was not any one act that led to the award but a combination of a positive attitude about their teammates and opponents and refraining from demonstrative displays, like throwing a helmet after striking out.

“We ask them, ‘How would you like people remember you,’” Shults said.

“Winning sportsmanship, to me, is better than winning the dang tournament,” Marion Recreation Director Margo Yates said.

Last modified July 28, 2011

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