MATTOON, Ill. -- The Sikeston 12-and-under all-star baseball team will take the field today at 4 p.m., playing in their first game of the Cal Ripken World Series.
"We're very excited about finally getting to play," said head coach Terry Lambert. "All the festivities have been great, but we're ready to get on the field and start playing baseball again."
The squad will face Illinois champion, Effingham, today in their first game. Sikeston will then face state champions from Arkansas, Hawaii and California. If they win three of those four, they will advance to the World Series semifinals. "I've read a lot about each team," said Lambert. "A lot of them sound about like us -- strong on defense and pitching. We feel if we can play good defense and pitch the way we have been pitching as of late, we can compete with them. We're going to do our best to play the type of baseball Sikeston has a reputation of playing."
On Thursday night, Sikeston attended a World Series banquet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
"We had Billy Ripken and Cal Ripken speak," said Lambert. "It was a wonderful ceremony about little league baseball. We're just lucky to be here to enjoy the festivities that are going on."
Sikeston has also participated in a home run derby, a bubble gum chewing contest with Cal Ripken, and was a part of an 80-entry parade.
"The boys are having a great time," said Lambert. "They're excited to be here. Mattoon is putting on a wonderful event. It's something you've got to really see to believe."
Cal Ripken Baseball was called the Bambino Division until the year 2000. Unlike the Bambino Division, Cal Ripken Baseball includes five international teams from Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.
The championship game of the World Series will be televised on Fox Sports.
Sikeston qualified for the prestigious event by recently sweeping the Midwest Plains Regional in Boonville.
Members of the squad are Clayton Mayfield, Hunter Dillender, Scott Droddy, Tyler Ramey, Seth Baker, Garrett Limbaugh, Matthew Rushing, Chase Ferrell, Adam Martin, Josh Pierce, Timmy Bell and Nick Lambert. The team is coached by Lambert, Jeff Martin and Justin Ramey.
The squad has a record of 21-1.