A Central Iowa Little League team leaves today to represent Iowa in the Midwest Regional Tournament in Indianapolis.
The Urbandale Little Leaguers have been working in the batting cage and on the field in their home park as they prepare for their opening round game Thursday.
This is the second straight year manager Mike Lillard has led Urbandale to the Iowa title, but this isn’t the same group of 11 and 12 year olds heading to Indy. Lillard says they have two returning players and 10 new ones who haven’t experienced going to Indianapolis and staying the dorms.
Lillard says there’s one key he learned from last year’s experience. He says getting the players rest is important, as they went at it pretty hard the last time around, and thinks they wore down at the end. Lillard says they’ll still practice every day, but will have lighter workouts that focus on key issues from game to game.
Lillard says there are five teams in the regional, and each team plays four others. The top four teams in pool play advance to the semifinals and single-elimination play. Last year’s team was knocked out by a late inning home run, and Lillard says that left them wanting to return.
Lillard says the goal was to get back to the regional and win it. Winning the regional gives the team a chance to head east again, this time to the Mecca of Little League, the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Lillard says getting there is just part of the ultimate goal, as they want to make some noise once they get there.
Urbandale faces the Missouri state champion at 12:30 (CST) Thursday, and then will play games against, Kansas, Nebraska and a combined team from North and South Dakota in pool play.
Minnesota is also in the region. The four teams with the best record after pool play move on to the semifinals.
Team photo above : front row, left to right: Ryan Yoder, Dalton Coady, Jonathan Eide, Michael Staub, Jonah Eide, Trae Cropp; Second row: Trey Nesbit, Nick Ewing, Ryan Lillard, Logan Augustine, Jackson Ross, Joe Glaser; Back row: Coach Jeff Eide, Manager Mike Lillard, Coach Larry Augustine, Coach Dan Schuck.