HIGHLAND – The Highland All-Stars 12u squad went 5-0 at the Sharp Athletic Complex over the weekend, capturing the 2012 title, just as last year’s 12u team did. Over the course of the three days, the 12s had two wins over the Porter Pink Raiders, one against the Valpo Triple Threat and two over a gritty Griffith club, including the championship game.
According to manager Chris Ramirez, the team’s number one goal was accomplished. “We told the girls at the very first practice that winning the Highland tournament was our top priority. Every practice and every game was used as preparation to achieve that goal.”
“We worked the girls hard for nearly two months, and it paid off” said Ramirez. “The team not only achieved its ultimate goal of winning the Highland Invite, but more importantly, all 13 girls are better players today than when this started.”
As always, Ramirez is quick to credit the players. “Rachel Russell and Hannah Starcevich were anchors for us in the circle,” said Ramirez. “You can’t win without good pitching at this level and we had good pitching.”
Ramirez added that Alaina Chacon was a force behind the plate. “She was the best catcher we saw at the 12u level, period. And she was the difference maker on several occasions.”
Other key contributors were first baseman Carley Ramirez, shortstop Jamie Gessler and second baseman Jen Sheehan. “They all hit well and played good defense,” said Ramirez. “Our infield was as good as any we saw all summer.”
The entire roster contributed said Ramirez. “Courtney Morton pounded the ball for us all summer. Kaitlyn Pecoski and Marissa Ramos came through with some big hits, Morgan Rinkema made some key catches in center and Morgan Chacon’s speed was a big asset.”
The manager added that even player’s who didn’t see a great deal of game time were still valuable members of the team. “Claudia Zacarias brought a level of toughness that wouldn’t have been there if she wasn’t on the roster,” said Ramirez. “Nobody was more black and blue than her. And Destiny Ruiz gave us depth in the outfield, at first base if needed and in the bullpen.”
Ramirez was questioned by some for taking 13 players. “I was told that we had too many players, but I disagreed. We not only had the right amount of players,” Ramirez said. “We had the right players.”
For the past several weeks Ramirez also heard how his team was at a disadvantage because of the number of 12u All-Star caliber players who weren’t for one reason or another on the team. “The only players I want to talk about are the ones who are on the team,” said Ramirez. “They put the work in and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Ramirez concluded by crediting his coaching staff. “Nobody can do this alone. I was blessed to have three dedicated partners for the past two months; Dennis Russell, Steve Ramos and Kevin Sheehan,” said Ramirez. “Whatever credit comes my way has to be divided by four.”
The 12s finished the summer with an impressive 15-5 mark, taking the Highland title, finishing second in Portage and third in East Peoria, despite not having a complete roster for the duration of any tournament.
“Because we were usually shorthanded, each player was asked to give a little extra,” Ramirez said. “And each player did. They should take pride in what they accomplished.”