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East County Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2016 3 years ago

Hit or Miss: Jen Blanco

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Best friends enjoy success as Little League All-Stars
by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

This summer offered a new challenge for best friends Ryan Hanson, Jack MacKinnon and Reese Jones. 

Looking for a change of pace, the three travel ball players opted to play baseball at Lakewood Ranch Little League rather than playing another season with Manatee Cal Ripken Baseball or by taking time off, as they had done in the past. 

While the boys had to learn a new set of rules, including remembering they couldn’t dive head first into the bag when trying to steal a base, the transition proved to be relatively smooth. 

Hanson, 11, MacKinnon, 12, and Jones, 11, joined the league together and all three were named to Lakewood Ranch Little League’s 10-and 11-year-old All-Star team last month. 

For the three friends to not only make the team in their first season in the league, but to do it together, made the whole experience even better. 

Over the course of the last two months, the three friends bonded with their new all-star teammates while becoming a dominant force on the field. 

“I like how everyone works and plays together,” said Hanson, who plays shortstop. “We’re all friends and we get along well.” 

Lakewood Ranch captured District 26 and Section IV championships to earn a berth in the state tournament July 15-17, at North Springs Little League, in Coral Springs. 

“We had a lot of talent on the team, so I had a feeling we were going to be good,” said Jones, who plays first base. “We’re one of the best eight teams in the state.” 

While the state tournament didn’t quite go according to plan, as Lakewood Ranch dropped all three of its pool play games, that didn’t deter the boys from returning to the field for batting practice July 25 in hopes of making another run next year. 

“We work really hard and we have a solid team,” said MacKinnon, who plays center field. “I think we can do anything, and next year we’re going to try to win it all.” 

***

The Lakewood Ranch Little League 11-and-12-year-old All-Star team saw its season come to an end in the Section IV Little League tournament July 15-17, at Land O’Lakes Little League park. 

Coming off its recent District 26 championship, the team went 1-2 in the round-robin tournament. 

Lakewood Ranch defeated Belmont Heights 8-7 in a nine-inning slugfest during its second game of the tournament for its lone victory. 

***

Youth soccer in Lakewood Ranch and the surrounding area will soon be getting an international facelift. 

Luis Figo, one of Portugal’s most legendary soccer players, will be hosting a presentation at 10 a.m. July 28, at The Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch, to discuss the new International Visibility Program for youth soccer. 

Figo’s passion for the game inspired him to start the European Showcase by Figo tournament, which will be held Nov. 11-13, at the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch. More than 400 boys and girls teams, ranging in age from 8-18, are expected to participate.

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