Coaches point to hitting as key to Babe Ruth All-Star teams succeeding |

Coaches point to hitting as key to Babe Ruth All-Star teams succeeding

Ryan Buchan, Tribune intern

South Lake Tahoe will be the home of the Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old State All-Star Tournament. The tournament begins on July 17 and will be played at Todd Fields near South Tahoe Middle School. South Tahoe is the No. 3 seed, and it will start the double-elimination tournament by playing fourth-seeded Carson City.

South Tahoe All-Star manager Kevin Higgins said he is hopeful that his team will be successful after struggling the last few years.

“We are always right there, and there are a number times we can’t hold it together at the end,” Higgins said. “I think we are due.”

Higgins is coming off a South Tahoe Babe Ruth championship season where his Giants defeated the Padres to take home the crown.

Higgins has one player from his championship team, his son Cody Higgins. Cody Higgins was the team’s leadoff hitter and scored five runs and delivered four hits in the championship game.

Two players from the championship runner-up Padres – Austin Buyak and Dakota Cronin – also are part of the all-star squad.

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Kevin Higgins said for his team to have success, it needs to hit.

“I honestly feel defensively we always match up. I don’t think we are outpitched,” Higgins said. “What we need is hitting. I think we have great hitters, but I think we get caught up in the moment and get nervous.”

Higgins has coached all-stars since most of his players were 10.

“I think there is something to be said about consistency,” coach Higgins said. “I know all the guys, and the guys know me. They give a 100 percent, and we want to make a run at this thing.”

13-year-old all-stars

Manager Steve Weldy brings eight years of experience of coaching all-stars to this team and has worked with most of his roster before.

Weldy said he thinks he has the talent to go far in the tournament.

“I think we have a great little team. I expect to accomplish a championship out of these guys,” Weldy said. “It looks like we will have the strongest 13s I have seen.”

Behind the plate the team has Dominic Diana, who proved in the playoffs he has an arm for opposing players to fear. He easily threw out two players trying to steal when his team played the Dodgers.

Weldy said that hitting is the one area the team needs to excel at in order to win. “If we don’t hit, we don’t score runs,” Weldy said. “If we don’t score runs, we don’t win any games.”

Two players on his roster led their teams to a championship berth behind their hitting.

Andrew Noll was 4 for 4 with a double in the championship game and also had some key hits in his team’s come-from-behind victory against the Dodgers in the second round of the playoffs.

Ty Sprock made contact in every at-bat in the championship while scoring two runs and stealing two bases. He was the Padres’ offensive leader with three runs when they defeated the top-seeded Red Sox.

The 13-year-old all-stars’ first opponent is Elko, and they face off on July 17 at 8 p.m. at Lampe Park in Gardnerville. They enter the tournament as the lowest-seeded team.

15-year-old all-stars

Pitching will be one of the strengths of this South Tahoe team, said manager Mike Zanetell.

Zanetell added that he expects big performances on the mound from Colton Marchesseault and Alex Potnick, both of whom didn’t pitch much during the Babe Ruth season to rest sore arms.

“I do think we are going into this with a little bit better arm strength than we have in the past,” Zanetell said. “We have wore out by the time we get here because everybody uses the same pitchers so much. Our two-best pitchers have not pitched all year until recently.”

After Potnick and Marchesseault, Zanetell still has more depth on the bump.

Julian Washalefsky and Jared Morris were the one-two punch on the mound during the Giants’ championship run. Jess Latta, Andrew Contaxis and Brady Rennison have shown in the playoffs they can throw as well.

“We have a couple of power pitchers and a couple of junk-ball pitchers,” Zanetell said. “With the combination hopefully the coaches use them right, and we can make it work.”

Zanetell added that what his team needs to do to be successful is hit better than they have in the past. He said he has at least five players who played high school ball, which exposed them to better pitching and should help his team.

He said at this level, hitters can expect to see fastballs in excess of 70 mph, along with curveballs and changeups.

Grant Jones possibly had the best performance at the plate in the South Tahoe Babe Ruth playoffs. Jones had nine RBI off of five hits in one game. He also scored five runs, stole two bases and had a triple in that same game.

The 15-year-olds are the only team that must start in a qualifier tournament before getting a chance to go to the state tournament.

They have a first-round bye, and on July 10 they will play the winner of the Carson Valley-North Valleys game at Lampe Park.