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Little League Teams Enjoy Dream Seasons

By Jeannie Gregory, 09/01/18, 4:45PM EDT

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~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory

MAJORS’ MARCH

The 12U Majors team had plenty to be proud of in a Little League All-Star tournament that found them named District 9 Champions. They claimed that crown after topping Byron Center by a 12-2 domination on the diamond.

“These young men had some lofty expectations going into this,” continued Landis. “And on top of that, we had to scratch and claw just to get out of our pool play in Districts, then beat Byron Center twice in 90 degree heat. They did it their way, every game, and they picked each other up along the way. Their unselfishness and dedication to each other was amazing. We were dealt some pretty tough circumstances with our draw, and for us to come back through the losers’ bracket the way we did showed a lot of character.”

The team found plenty of success in St. Clair in the state tournament, topping Marysville 4-2, claiming a mercy over South Portage 14-1, downing Union Township 9-4, and edging out Ash Carlton 8-7 on a walk-off single, after an initial loss to Grosse Pointe Woods Shores. Rockford made their way through the tournament only to find themselves facing off against Grosse Pointe Woods Shores again in the finals. This time they fell to the eventual Regional Champion 12-7.

On top of the runner-up title, the team claimed 12 games out of 15 in the tournament and tallied an amazing 144 runs in the process, with plenty of great hitting and pitching along the way.

Head coach Derek Landis was proud of his team of athletes.

What surprised me the most was their composure in tight situations,” shared Landis. “We had 13 kids worthy of starting, and many kids fell into new roles during the tournament, and were put in tough situations by me, at times almost unfair. But, the composure and not letting the moment ever be too big, was amazing. Every one of them, all 13, contributed amazing plays and performances in the biggest of moments. They never flinched, and that is a testament to their mental toughness.”

It was a combined team effort from a roster that included Jack Lockwood, Gavin Engelsman, Haiden Noakes, Drake Irwin, Connor Courtney, Quinn Bentley, Gabe Stouffer, Jordan Eck, Jonny Rohen-Blanton, Payton Skarda, Andrew Landis, Michael Skarda and Jackson Wyble. The team was expertly coached by Derek Landis, Dan Bentley, Matt Lockwood, and Matt Engelsman.

“It truly was an honor and privilege to coach these boys alongside Dan, Matt and Matt,” Landis said. “I would like to thank Rockford Little League, especially those behind the scenes that make all the little things happen to make RLL one of the best programs in the state. Also, those players and teams before us that raised the bar high. People like Adam Burkholder, Scott Olejniczak, Mike Messing, Josh Schueller (and a host of others) who took the time and energy to help develop these kids at a younger age and set a precedent for future teams to aspire to.”

Landis continued.

“There was a sense of fulfillment watching everything unfold after we won the District 9 title against Byron Center. It was something this group had been building towards for 3-plus years, with winter workout sessions, playing an intense travel ball schedule, and some grueling practices pre-tournament.  Having it all come together was an amazing feeling. I remember vividly watching parents, siblings, out of town relatives on the fences and coming onto the field celebrating, I will never forget that and hope the boys will remember it forever.”

MINORS’ DESTINY

The 10U Minors team earned Rockford’s first 10U Little League State Championship. They had a dream post-season, going a perfect 12-0 on their march to the state crown. The team mowed down the District 9 competition, topping Georgetown 6-4 to claim the district title.

The team then continued their diamond dreams by traveling to Bay City for the Little League State Tournament. Their first game was a 10-0 mercy shutout against West Portage, and with their potent offense at the plate, they dominated Beach Little League 18-2. The Tecumseh Indians gave Rockford more of a challenge, but the Rams took them down 9-6. The quarterfinals found Rockford topping Petoskey 14-9. Rockford continued their winning ways, downing host Bay City by a 6-3 score in the semis. Even though Rockford fell behind to Mount Pleasant in the first inning, it didn’t seem to faze the talented team. They answered with plenty of runs and earned the state crown by an 8-5 score.

“I am so extremely proud of what this team was able to accomplish together,” said head coach Jeff Geshel. “Going 12-0, winning a District 9 championship and they finished it off in grand style by becoming the first 10u team from Rockford to win a State Championship. Because of what these kids were able to do, there are 8- and 9 year old boys in Rockford now that have big dreams. We look forward to hoisting a couple of new banners in the Spring at the Little League complex, and it will be pretty cool for these kids to see their names on signs hanging up next to the other District and State Championship teams from past years.     

The names appearing on those signs are team members Breckton Meeuwsen, Chase Pitsch, Mason Plain, Drew Ramm, Daniel Toole, Carter VanderTuig, Manny Abro, Quinn Geshel, Bryce Heeringa, Eli Johnson, Niam Kusreau, and Cole Mason, who all contributed at different times to the team’s successful 12-0 run to claim the Michigan Little League State Championship. The team was coached by Geshel, Michael Meeuwsen and Mike Ramm

“This was my ninth consecutive season coaching Little League, and I’m very thankful for all this experience provides,” continued Geshel. “Little League is a largely volunteer organization that does a tremendous job with their local leagues and the All-Stars competition each season.  Our community has a very committed and supportive local Board and staff at Rockford Little League and throughout District 9 in West Michigan. I also want to thank our entire Rockford community.  So many people were following our run, and the kids, parents, and coaches all felt their support. We’d also like to congratulate and thank this year’s 12u team on their tremendous run of success. Our team of kids watched them closely and definitely were inspired by their accomplishments.”

Both coaches sang the praises of the Rockford community – and the incredible support they received on their All-Star runs - while making memories all over the state of Michigan. They loved being able to share such inspiring and positive stories with their fans.

“Rockford is a terrific baseball community with a lot of wonderful facilities,” concluded Geshel. “I hope this inspires many kids at all levels to keep playing baseball and dreaming big, and perhaps a few boys who left the sport to pick up a glove and bat again and give it another try!”