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Local teams head to state tourney

Thursday, July 17, 2008

(Photo)
In this file photo, Blake Gaddis connects for a base hit against New Madrid in a contest at Hillhouse Park in Charleston. Photo by David Jenkins, Staff
LEADWOOD -- After winning their first ever state championship last year, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels (21-20) are looking to repeat as champions in Leadwood this weekend at the Senior Babe Ruth Missouri State tournament.

Last year, the Squirrels swept through the state tournament defeating the Cape Girardeau Sr. Babe Ruth team in the championship game with a team that head coach Michael Minner says had been together for a while.

"Last year we had a nice run," Minner said. "We had a good ball club that had been together for about three years. Last year we felt like we were ready to compete at the state level after struggling the past two seasons."

The state championship earned Minner and his Squirrels a trip to the regional tournament in Williston, N.D. where they fell in the championship game.

As for this year, Charleston is hoping that the players that were there in Williston can bring the experience with them and get them even further.

"This year we've got some faces back and a lot of new faces," Minner said. "But, we have enough experience that we feel like we know what we need to do coming into the regional and the state playoffs this weekend."

(Photo)
In this file photo, Jay Singleton delivers a pitch for New Madrid as they battled Charleston at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
Whatever the outcome of the state playoffs, win or lose, the Squirrels have an automatic bid to the next stage which is the regional playoffs. Still, coach Minner and the Squirrels wouldn't mind to be called the two-time Missouri Sr. Babe Ruth state champions.

"We want to go win the state championship too," Minner said. "We're not looking past that so we have to continue to play good baseball and do some things right. We feel like we have the experience to win a regional championship and hopefully make it to the World Series."

The Squirrels have received a bye for the first round of the state tournament and will play their first game on Saturday at noon.

Also making a push for a state championship will be New Madrid County's Sr. Babe Ruth team. NMC will be at the state tournament in Leadwood as well where they hope to make some noise.

New Madrid County's head coach Kevin Lyons was unavailable for comment.