AHSBR baseball teams competing in Ohio Valley regionals

The Alpena Huron Shore Babe Ruth 12U baseball team knows all about the pressures of playoff baseball.

Last year as an 11U team, Alpena advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional Tournament and had one of the best performances by a Michigan team in many years.

Alpena 12U will be one of four local teams competing in Cal Ripken Ohio Valley regionals this weekend and will play in Lexington, Ky. Alpena’s 10U team will compete in Newburgh, In., Alpena’s 11U team will play in Elizabethtown, Ky., and Alpena’s 14U team will compete in a Babe Ruth regional in Henderson, Ky.

Having been on a deep playoff run last year, Alpena 12U is feeling more prepared this time around. Alpena is in a pool with Lake Cumberland, Ky., Connersville, In., and Homewood, Ill..

Alpena will open play today at 10 a.m. against Lake Cumberland.

“I think we’re more prepared this time than we were last year,” Alpena 12U coach Chris Limback said. “When we lost last year in Illinois, Jim DeRocher and I sat down and said, ‘We’ve got a great group of kids, now how do we make them stronger?'”

Getting stronger meant preparing for the state tournament in April and it paid off as Alpena won three tournaments and romped its way to the 12U Cal Ripken state title on its home field two weeks ago.

Alpena has a talented roster of big hitters and an ace pitcher in Aidan Goike. Even with last year’s experience, Limback knows Alpena will have to start out strong.

“Just about everyone knows what to expect. Last year we were more in awe and we played a little tentative,” Limback said. “We need to come out and play strong that first game.”

Alpena’s 10U team is another repeat state champion, after winning the 9U title last season and is expecting a good showing this time around. Alpena 10U will open against Southeastern Lexington, Ky today at 10 a.m. and is in a pool with Lexington, Mooresville, In. and Evergreen Park, Ill.

Last season, Alpena 10U had played only a handful of games together before winning the state title. This time around, Alpena flexed its muscle and breezed to a state title with a team that includes eight players from last year’s 9U squad.

Like the 12U team, Alpena 10U put in extra work in the offseason to prepare for this weekend and it paid off during the state tournament. Alpena’s entire lineup showed a knack for hitting the ball and knowing how to get into good scoring position once players got on base.

“We learned a lot from last year and many of the fathers and coaches got together and worked these boys all winter long because we knew we had to be better, especially when it comes to regionals,” Alpena coach Dave Nowak said after his team’s state title win.

The Alpena 11U team also opens against Southeastern Lexington, Ky., today at 10 a.m., but hasn’t had the luxury of time off. Alpena won the state title on Sunday in Milford and had to turn around and travel to Kentucky two days later.

Alpena is in a pool that includes Lexington, Terre Haute, In., Mooresville and Galesburg, Ill.

If last weekend is any indication however, Alpena could have a lot of momentum going into regionals. Alpena went 5-0 on the way to winning the state title, getting contributions from every member of its team and outscoring its opponents 82-15; an average of more than 16 runs per game.

Alpena’s 14U team will also face Lexington today at 10 a.m. and will be getting its first real taste of competition in quite awhile. Alpena won the state championship with ease over Clinton Valley, but the 14U tournament featured just two teams and Alpena established itself as the favorite with a 33-2 win in the first game of a best-of-5 series.

Alpena’s pool includes Lexington, Terre Haute, In. and Downers Grove, Ill.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.