The Plant City Little League 12-year-olds played in the state championship tournament last weekend.
For the first time in four years, you won’t hear about a group of Plant City Little League all-stars making it out of the state championship series.
You also won’t hear about them leaving Keystone Little League’s park with heads hanging sadly.
Though Lehigh Acres Little League captured the 2018 state championship on July 22 with a 4-1 win, Plant City’s 12-year-old team is thankful for the opportunity they had to get back to the title game in the first place.
The boys have plenty to be proud of.
Plant City got off to a solid start in last weekend’s state tournament. The boys kicked things off with a 2-1 win over Keystone’s team, which PCLL president Rhett Rollyson called a “classic.” Both teams dueled to a scoreless draw in the sixth inning, first broken by Deven Gonzalez’s leadoff home run in the top of the inning. Keystone tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with a leadoff homer of its own, but Gonzalez came through in the clutch one inning later. Not only did he drive in the winning run with two runners on base, he also pitched the bottom of the seventh and shut Keystone’s offense down to seal the deal.
The boys played twice on July 21 and their bats were red-hot. They started the morning with pitcher Tanner Rollyson’s complete game, an 11-0 shutout over Niceville Little League, and a 13-5 win over Navy Ortega Lakeshore Little League wrapped things up in the afternoon. With a 3-0 record in pool play and a strong run differential, Plant City went into the championship game with plenty of confidence.
Lehigh Acres was ready, though. Head coach Mike Palestrini credits Lehigh’s pitcher with throwing a great game, keeping Plant City’s live bats quiet until Blaine Rowland homered in the sixth inning with two outs.
“They were a little better than us that day,” Palestrini said. “Nothing to hang our heads about.”
The Plant City boys have put together quite a resume. There are four district titles and three state championship wins in four tries. There are three trips to Greenville, South Carolina, for the Tournament of State Champions. In Greenville, the boys placed third in 2015 and 2016 and second in 2017.
This four-year run forged friendships built to last. The boys said they’ve made many memories having fun at practice, taking road trips and pulling pranks whenever they could.
“We all like to joke around, create inside jokes and stuff,” Levi Jordan said. “It’s pretty fun.”
Their chemistry translated to success on the field, as they were all totally confident in each other.
“It makes us unite, like a perfect union,” Tanner Rollyson said.
No matter where baseball takes them, they’ll be able to think about the four years they spent accomplishing more than most Little Leaguers around the country have — and how they did it all together.