Plant City Little League 9-10 A All-Stars used a stellar playoff run to get to the Tournament of State Champions in Greenville, North Carolina.
Through the district and state championships, Plant City Little League 9-10 A All-Stars athletes’ jerseys read, “Plant City.” After cruising through the playoffs, their jerseys read, “Florida.”
The A team won the state championship Sunday, July 17. The win vaulted the team into the Tournament of State Champions in Greenville, North Carolina, which was held Saturday, July 23, through Wednesday, July 27.
The Plant City boys were pitted against some of the top competition from the South, batting squads from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Plant City placed third overall.
At the beginning of All-Stars season, 10 games stood between the Plant City boys and their ticket to Greenville.
Using its deep pitching rotation and power at the plate, Plant City swept the competition. The boys scored 136 total runs, and five players — Chase Mobley, Blaine Rowland, Anthony Palestrini, Adan Longoria and Deven Gonzalez — combined to sock 22 home runs out of the parks.
“Our lineup was very strong from top to bottom,” Manager Mike Palestrini said. “Any batter that came up, we knew he could get a hit at any point in time … if you can have your batters at seven, eight and nine getting big hits for you, that makes your team really tough to stop.”
The team gave up just eight runs over those 10 games.
“Our pitching was excellent,” Mike Palestrini said. “We have a lot of pitchers. We probably had, I think, a deeper pitching staff than any team we faced.”
The Saturday, July 17, championship game pitted Plant City against Merritt Island, which got out-pitched and took a 12-2 loss.
“We used seven pitchers in the state tournament, and we went into the championship game with all but one of them available,” Mike Palestrini said. “(Merritt Island), their top five pitchers were not available because they had used them too much during the week.”
For some of the boys, the Tournament of State Champions was a new experience.
For many of the boys, and Mike Palestrini, it was a return trip. Mike Palestrini guided a team to Greenville last year, and the trip gave him and the returning payers an idea of what kind of competition to expect going in.
“Based on what we saw last year, I think that the level of competition you see in Greenville, from the top teams, is probably a little bit stronger than you would see from the best teams in the state of Florida,” he said. “But there are some states that don’t have as strong of a team.”
Last year, Mike Palestrini’s squad played well enough to take third place in the tournament.
This year, the team started off well, winning its opening game against North Carolina by a score of 8-4. It then won its Sunday, July 24, game, 18-4, over South Carolina but took a 15-1 loss to Virginia in the Monday, July 25, game.
“We pitched really good,” Anthony Palestrini said. “Our team did really good.”
On Tuesday, July 26, Plant City was knocked out of the tournament by South Carolina, taking a 2-1 loss that gave the local boys another third-place finish.
“We were a good team, and they were a good team,” Gonzalez said. “It was like looking in the mirror.”
The team finished its playoff run with a 163-33 run differential, 166 total hits and 28 home runs. Although it didn’t improve upon last year’s finish, the team left Greenville with heads held high.
“I’m just glad the whole team got to experience this once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Colby Brewington said.
Contact Justin Kline at email@example.com.
C.W. Watson, RF
Austin Trimble, LF
Tanner Rollyson, 1B
Logan Figga, OF
Levi Jordan, OF
Gehrig Graham, OF
Blaine Rowland, C
Adan Longoria, P
Colby Brewington, 2B
Deven Gonzalez, SS
Anthony Palestrini, 3B
Chase Mobley, CF
Mike Palestrini, manager