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Sparks Babe Ruth 13s gear up for run at regional
by Dan Eckles
Jul 18, 2013 | 1752 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Will Banister throws over to first base during an infield drill at the Sparks Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star practice Thursday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Will Banister throws over to first base during an infield drill at the Sparks Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star practice Thursday.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - Jacob White prepares for a throw to the plate after scooping up a ground ball during infield drills at Thursday's practice for the Sparks Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-stars.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Jacob White prepares for a throw to the plate after scooping up a ground ball during infield drills at Thursday's practice for the Sparks Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-stars.
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There's not much negativity surrounding the Sparks Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star team. Then again, there's no reason for it. The local squad just capped a perfect run through the Nevada North State Tournament.

Sparks collected five straight wins during a four-day span that stretched from last Friday through Monday earlier this week. The last of the those tournament tilts was a 6-5 win over South Tahoe in the tourney's title game Monday. The tournament championship gives Sparks a berth into the upcoming Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in Vernal, Utah July 29 through Aug. 3.

"Winning the tournament was awesome," first baseman Jacob White said. "Our guys were all jumping around, happy we won the championship. We'd never experienced anything like that before. It was pretty amazing, a feeling we all liked."

Sparks had beat South Reno, 16-2, and Fallon, 23-3, in a pair of pool games last Friday. It then handed South Tahoe a 9-3 loss in the first round of double elimination bracket play. Next came a 3-2 win over South Reno and finally the championship win over South Tahoe.

"The kids have played great," Sparks coach Jeremy White said. "They're having a blast. It's a good experience and a new one ... They have me feeling like a kid again. I wish I could still play with them."

Sparks assistant coach Mike Mahoney said he's a veteran of many an all-star coaching summer. He thinks this squad may be as complete a team as he's been around.

"We can hit one through 10. There's not a bad hitter on this team," Mahoney said. "The kids are very aggressive. They don't look for walks. They go up to hit and that's what makes them different from a lot of teams."

While Mahoney chimed in on the team's offensive prowess, Coach White was quick to praise the pitching and defense.

"We have some outstanding pitchers," Coach White said. "Nobody has scored very many runs on us. We're pretty deep with a good rotation. We've got a lot of kids that throw hard. Our pitching is one reason I think we've got just as good a shot as anybody to win this regional tournament.

"We also play great defense. We were flawless in that second game against South Reno."

Vernal, Utah, will be a youth baseball Mecca in the coming weeks. It hosts the Cal Ripken 11u regional tournament next week and soon as those teams disband from the burg of around 9,200 people, the Babe Ruth regional and its teams hit town. Vernal sits 175 miles east of Salt Lake City, about 20 miles from the Colorado border. It will take the Sparks all-star caravan more than 11 hours to get there.

The long trip and the hotel stay will be well out of the normal baseball routine for Sparks, but the local team's coaches don't think they'll see any negative side effects once the club hits the diamond.

"I think the kids will be fine," White said. "We've all been trips. It's exciting for them, like a big adventure."

The younger White echoed those sentiments.

"We'll be fine. It doesn't matter where we play," Jacob said.

With just over a week to go before the regional tournament, Sparks has a handful of practices to still work on some finer points.

"We've been working on our pitch selection," Coach White said. "The last couple of games, we've been swinging at a lot of pitches because we are such aggressive hitters. We've got to make sure we're swinging at pitches we can handle, wheel house pitches. Plus we'll keep working on our pitching and defense.

Third baseman Gage Damers said he thinks offense will be a big factor as the team advances.

"I'm looking for us to keep hitting," he said. "We have to hit. We've played good defense and our pitching should be fine. We just have to keep hitting."

Sparks does face one tough obstacle before it heads to Utah -- fundraising. The team has to raise $6,200 to cover its travel expenses. Mahoney and White said they're about a third of the way there, leaving team families to still raise around $4,000 in just over a week.

Mahoney pointed out that he has tax ID forms to help potential sponsors write off their donation. Anyone interested in sponsoring the team with a donation should call Mahoney at 420-6375.

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