SIKESTON -- The Sikeston 12-and-under all-star baseball team will leave for Mattoon, Ill., on Wednesday for the Cal Ripken World Series.
Sikeston is 21-1 after winning the Sikeston and Portageville tournaments and winning district, state and regional titles en route to the World Series.
They swept through the Midwest Plains Regional in Boonville, Mo., when they defeated Southeast Denver (Co.) 7-2 last week in the championship game.
Sikeston will play its first game on Sunday, Aug. 18 where they will meet Effingham, Ill., at 4 p.m.
"It's something that we're still in shock over," said Sikeston head coach Terry Lambert. "It's unbelievable that we're going to the World Series."
Cal Ripken Baseball was called Bambino Division until 2000 when a name change was in order.
Unlike the Bambino Division, Cal Ripken Baseball includes five international teams from Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.
Also, the championship game of the Cal Ripken World Series will be televised on Fox Sports.
"I want to make it an experience that the boys will never forget," said Lambert. "I want them all to participate and do well. I think it's like a dream come true for most of them because all 12 are just really solid baseball fans first, and baseball players second. I think they're going to really enjoy the moment. There's a lot of activities that are set up for the boys. We're going to be there four days before we actually play a game."
Also in store for the week will be home run hitting contests and guest appearances by former Major League stars Don Mattingly, Harmon Killebrew and Cal Ripken himself.
"There's going to be some hall of fame baseball players and there's going to be a banquet and different things that I think will leave lifetime memories," said Lambert.
But while the festival atmosphere will be pleasant greeting, Lambert feels his team has a chance to make some noise in the tournament.
"I think we'll compete," said Lambert. "There's two six team divisions from the United States and a division of five foreign teams. Our pitching has been able to slow down the opponents' bats, our defense was great when it needed to be and our hitting has been timely. So I think we'll compete. "I think I owe it to the boys to try our best to win, but ultimately I think the experience is the most important factor, making sure they have a great time and experience everything. We're going to play to win but we're going to have fun too."
Even though this current group of 12-year-olds has never made it this far, Lambert says they've been close the last two years.
"The last couple of years we've ran against a really tough Mineral Area team," said Lambert. "When we were 10 we got second place and four of these players were on the 12-year-old team that got third in the state. So we felt like if we got past Mineral Area that everything else would be a bonus. We went into the Regionals with the idea that we wanted to play well and make the state of Missouri proud of us. We got on a roll and played good baseball. Our pitching the last two games was phenomenal."
Leading the charge for Sikeston's pitching staff has been Garrett Limbaugh, Timmy Bell, Nick Lambert and Tyler Ramey, who all recorded wins at the Midwest Plains Regional.
Sikeston has also had some outstanding defense led by the centerfield presence of Josh Pierce, whom Lambert called "a little Jim Edmonds," in reference to the gold glove Major League centerfielder.
On the infield, Lambert has tough decisions when filling out the lineup card with talented glovemen like second basemen Clayton Mayfield and Hunter Dillender, shortstops Limbaugh and Bell, third basemen Bell and Ramey and first baseman Scott Droddy.
Calling the signals behind the plate is Chase Ferrell.
Offensively, Lambert, Limbaugh and Droddy have had phenomenal seasons with all batting over .500 and recording 30 hits or more in the last 22 games.
Lambert leads the team in the triple crown categories with a .550 average, five home runs and 34 RBIs.
Limbaugh leads the team with 42 runs scored and six triples. Droddy has 27 RBIs and leads the team with 36 hits.
Other offensive contributors are Mayfield (.396), Dillender (.300), Bell (.433, 17 RBIs, 22 runs, 7 doubles), Ramey (.326, 10 RBIs), outfielder Seth Baker (.400, 13 runs), Pierce (.278, 16 runs), outfielder Adam Martin (.303, 8 runs), Ferrell (.500, 4 doubles) and outfielder Matt Rushing (.400, 8 runs).
Jeff Martin and Justin Ramey are the assistant coaches for Lambert.
"It's a dream come true for me," said Lambert. "I've coached baseball for 15 years and to have a group of boys play like this and go to the World Series has been amazing. I want them to enjoy every bit of it."