While many in Rohnert Park and Cotati were still sleeping off graduation festivities or a busy work week, the Cal Ripken Under 9 Little League was off and running. A warm morning at Alicia Park featured the Under 9 Reds and Under 9 Blues facing off in a late morning matchup.
This game consisted of a team who has been together for three years (blue) and one who just came together this season. According to Red Team Assistant Coach Nathan Hayes, this was a big factor in the final score being 16-2.
“That Blue team is a very good team,” Hayes said. “They’ve been together for about three years. When tryouts happen we have 12 new kids who are just getting into that all-star form who haven’t played together before.”
Hayes was very complimentary of his team’s hitting, base running and fielding even in defeat. He says the team is coming together right on time for the pre-state tournaments and playing a team like the Blues will help prepare them for what’s to come.
It was clear from talking with Coach Hayes the Reds were using Sat. as a way to work on fundamentals. Hayes said they had some new pitchers who the coaches were trying to get acclimated on the mound. He talked about how he stays positive and helps his kids learn the game when they are getting beaten badly.
“We were working on things like focusing on the target, big leg kicks and following through,” Hayes said. “We were focused today on having them fight through the bad pitches or fielding in preparation for the state tournament in a few weeks.”
For Blue Team Head Coach Jeff Tatman it was all about improvement. Though his team won the game, he is preparing his team for state and regionals. Tatman wants to correct the mistakes he saw during Saturday’s game in preparation for tournament play
“I thought the game went well overall,” Tatman said. “However, there were a few kinks like picking up signs on the bases and showing more discipline in the batter’s box.”
Like any coach who knows their team is talented, Tatman is looking ahead to the postseason and making sure his team is ready for the challenge. Tatman feels his team can do very well if they clean up some sloppiness.
“Some things we will be working on in practice this coming week are ground balls, some small drills which include running back on the ball and staying in front of it,” Tatman said.
Even for a team as good as the Cal Ripken Blues, fixing small mistakes is a way to ensure the team meets its full potential.
Just like older forms of Little League, the Under 9s have tournaments coming up. The Cal Ripken Under 9 Blue team have three tournaments coming up this month, all leading up to the state tournament in Laguna June 28. The first of these three is Pre-state, which is next weekend in Elk Grove.
Even though both the Red and Blue teams are at different points in their season, both coaches feel good about their teams’ chances of performing well in State.
Red team coach Hayes knows his boys are coming along at a fast pace and making good strides. Like Hayes, Tatman was optimistic about his team’s chances.
“At this point I feel like we could do a pretty good job,” Tatman said. “Once we work on a few things we will definitely be ready.”