Preparation could be key
By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times,
SHADY HILLS -- By next Friday, virtually every Little League All-Star team in Pasco County will have taken the field for post-season tournaments.
The Shady Hills 7-8 baseball team will not have to wait that long. The team plays tonight at 7:30 in the District 4 tournament against the winner of Wednesday's game between Lady Lake and Ocala National. Ocala is hosting the tournament for the second consecutive year.
Shady Hills coach Mike Fackender feels his team has a shot at improving on last year's 3-2 finish in the double-elimination series, losing in the final to Ocala National.
"When we went up to Ocala, they were a lot more organized," Fackender said. "We learned a bunch."
One thing Fackender learned was the speed at which the pitching machines are set. In the 7-8 division, pitching machines deliver baseballs to the plate.
Last year, Shady Hills' five teams played games with pitching machines set at 35 mph, but during the all-star tournament the machines released baseballs at 42 mph. At practices this week, Fackender had his players trying to hit balls at the faster speed.
"It's their tournament and we're going by their rules," Fackender said. "The first year, (the speed of the pitching machines) kind of caught us off-guard. But by the end of the tournament we were cranking.
"This year, we've already got them started out at the proper speed."
No other teams in the county play district all-star tournaments at that age level. Fackender feels the competition, as well as the travel, is beneficial to the young players.
"I think it's a good thing," he said.
"Every kid that was on that (Shady Hills) team last year was a first-round pick when they moved up (to the 9-10 Shady Hills teams) this year."
Fackender's son, first baseman Jason, is Shady Hills' lone returning 7-8 all-star. Other top players include shortstop Tyler Cabral, left-centerfielder Cody Boland and leftfielder James Salerno.
The championship game is Sunday.
SHADY HILLS ALL-STARS
Cody Boland, Tyler Burgan, Tyler Cabral, Nicholas Dorey, Jason Fackender, Ericke Hare Jr., Christopher Howell, D.J. King, Justin Ladouceur, Matthew Lisk, Danny Locke, Ryan Perkins, Joshua Pickens, James Salerno, Mike Fackender (manager), Paul Ladoucer (coach), Keith Howell (coach) and Ray Perkins (coach).
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