As the 2018 Cal Ripken 12 Year Old State Tournament gets underway Friday, Devils Lake is one of the favorites to take home the championship -- they just have to stick to what they do best.
There was a slight overcast Tuesday over Ruger Park as Devils Lake continue to make its final preparations for this weekend’s Cal Ripken 12 Year Old State Tournament. The team, not the city itself, which will be hosting the double elimination tournament beginning tomorrow at the park on 5th Avenue.
“I think being at home is going to be a big confidence boost for our guys,” said Dustin Brodina, who is in his fourth year as head coach of Devils Lake.
“Not having to travel, not have to sleep in a hotel, having to sleep in our own beds and I think these guys are pretty excited about having to show off their own field, their own hometown and show some of these teams what we can do.”
Based off of the finish in last season’s 11 Year Old tournament, Devils Lake (31-7) will enter the weekend as the fourth seed. Dickinson, Bismarck Nationals and Grand Forks are the rest of the top four favorites.
“We’ve played in six tournaments this year and the boys have played really well. We’ve gotten first place in Bemidji and second place in both Fargo tournaments so this team has progressed since we started four years ago so it’s good to see the boys excelling now to where we want to be at age 12,” Brodina said.
With the core group being together since they were 8 and 9 respectively, familiarity is important on a stage such as this one.
“When you have these guys who’ve been playing together for this long, they really get use to each other, said Brodina. “They know where each other is at, batting in the same batting order they get use to who they are batting in front of, who they’re batting behind.
“We have a mix of 10, 11 and 12 year olds so we have some real young guys, we have older guys and we got some of our 12 year olds that have really stepped up and provided a lot of leadership this year for us and I think that has gotten us a little more success this year.”
Brodina knows that for his team to advance to next week’s Midwest Regional, they have to continue sticking to what they do best — small ball and glove work.
“We don’t have any real big hitters on our team, we’re not going to put the ball over the fence time and time again so we’re going to play small ball, running the bases extremely well and not making any errors. When the plays are there, we make them,” Brodina said.
Devils Lake has one of the two early games that open the tournament, when they play Bismark 8:30 a.m. on the main field.
Chris Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ