The Meridian Youth Baseball 12U All-Stars don’t have the kind of record that will intimidate opponents.
At the start of the season, their play wasn’t particularly dominating either.
But after a rough beginning, the Meridian squad made a miraculous turnaround, winning state and regional tournament championships to qualify for the 2022 Cal Ripken 12U Major/60 World Series. The tournament runs Aug. 4-14 at Purnell Wrigley Field in Waterville, Maine.
“They kept their heads up and continued to lift each other up all the time,” Meridian 12U coach Rick Schimkat said. “They never got discouraged and continued to work and not only try to get better themselves, but to help their teammates get better along the way.
“They’ve just gotten progressively better every single week, and it paid off when it needed to.”
The Meridian Youth Baseball team opens tournament play Saturday at 4 p.M. Mountain time against a team from Laguna, California. A live stream of the game will air locally at Loose Screw Beer Co., Uncle Bob’s Pizza and Good Apple Taphouse in Meridian, Schimkat said.
The team will continue pool play against host Waterville on Aug. 7, East Side (Indiana) on Aug. 8, Central VT (Vermont) on Aug. 9 and Ararat (Maine) on Aug. 10. The teams are then seeded in a bracket with three more days of games to determine the champion.
“I think it’s really cool,” Meridian second baseman/pitcher Luke Roggia said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think it’s gonna be really fun, and we’ll try our best.”
Since going 2-14 in their first four tournaments of the season, the 14-player Meridian team has gone 6-1.
“We were facing really hard club teams, and we’d only been practicing for a short time, and they’d been practicing for a long time,” Meridian outfielder/pitcher Kingston Wiley said. “We got rolled sometimes, but we had to learn to play with each other. Later on, we just came back.”
Meridian won its three state tournament games by outscoring opponents 35-4, and then scored 43 runs while allowing just 10 at the regional level.
“We have a lot of energy in the dugout, that’s a big part of it,” Meridian catcher/shortstop CJ Stoker said of his team’s recent success. “And then we pick up our teammates when they kind of get down on themselves.”
The trek to Maine will be the farthest trip east for most of the Meridian Youth Baseball team, and they could use some help getting there. A Go Fund Me account has been set up to offset the cost of equipment, jerseys and travel. So far the team has raised nearly $4,000 but it has a $30,000 goal.
“They’re a team of fighters,” Schimkat said. “They’re highly competitive and always looking to get better. They keep a positive attitude all the time. They’re unbreakable.”