HERITAGE HARBOUR — Derek Ziebell grew up watching his older brother play baseball, and by the time the Haile Middle School sixth-grader was 7 years old, he too was ready to step onto the ball field.
The 11-year-old pitcher has had a number of breakout performances over the past four years, but there was still one accolade that had always eluded him — being an All-Star.
That changed this season when Ziebell was named to the 2010 Manatee Cal Ripken 12U All-Star team in just his first season with the league.
“It was a good feeling because I haven’t made All-Stars yet,” Ziebell said of the announcement. “This season went very well just because I was able to make it to the All-Stars.”
Ziebell and the rest of his All-Star teammates began their quest for a state championship with the District 15 Tournament June 24-27 in Sarasota. Manatee Cal Ripken opened the tournament, which comprises Cal Ripken Little League teams from Manatee, Englewood, Sarasota, West Manatee and Cape Coral, with a 9-8 loss to Englewood. On June 26, the team fell 10-6. Center fielder Brandon Lam hit a grand slam and Ryan Duncan, Daniel Pierce and Cesar Bernal each added a home run to lead the way for Manatee Cal Ripken.
Manatee Cal Ripken Little League announced this year’s 12U All-Star team during the first week of May. The team began practicing three to four days a week, following the spring season, which ended May 15, in preparation for the district tournament.
“They’re very dedicated kids,” coach John DiLacqua said. “We’ve asked them to do a lot of hard work in practice, and they never seem to get tired of coming to practice, which is unusual for kids their age.”
Every player on Manatee Cal Ripken’s 12U All-Star team, with the exception of Ziebell, has previously been on an All-Star team, making this year’s team even more dedicated and eager to capture a district championship.
“It felt good,” said Lam, a four-time All-Star. “I like getting to meet new kids and play new competition. I’ve really improved my hitting skills from previous years, and I’m ready to win this year.”
“I think we’re going to be very successful and we have a good chance of winning it,” he said. “It’s just going to take lots of practice and hard work.”
Prior to the district tournament, the Manatee Cal Ripken 12U All-Star team played six pre-tournament games to help keep the players focused in the six weeks leading up to the district tournament.
“I think that for kids this age it’s a lot to keep them focused,” DiLacqua said. “To them, six weeks … it’s like a lifetime.”
8U ALL-STARS ADVANCE
The Manatee Cal Ripken Rookie Division All-Stars captured a district championship June 19-20 in Lake City.
The team, comprising of 7- and 8-year-olds, went 3-0 to clinch a spot in the Rookie Division “A” State Championships July 2-5 in Palm Beach Gardens. The team defeated Winter Park 12-8, Gainesville Santa Fe 12-3 and Jacksonville Mandarin 19-10 to become one of the top 16 teams in the state of Florida.
If the team should advance out of the state tournament, they will travel to the Southeast Regional tournament July 15 in Greenville, N.C.
For more information on Manatee Cal Ripken Little League visit the league’s website at www.manatee.baberuthonline.com.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].