Parkland Little League 12-Under All-Star Manager Derek Anderson was proud of everything this year’s team was able to accomplish.
Parkland followed up the program’s first trip to the state tournament last season by making a return visit. Parkland captured the district tournament as they defeated North Springs, 8-7; Fort Lauderdale, 6-0, and Fort Lauderdale, 4-2.
To reach the state tournament, Parkland swept Liberty City, 3-0 and 5-2. Anderson said a combination of things at state, including being outmanned and struggling defensively, led to three losses to Tampa Keystone, Maitland and Tallahassee Chaires.
“The state tournament in St. Pete was a great experience,” Anderson said. “The journey was special. Unfortunately, we did not have the showing we had hoped for. We give a lot of credit to the other seven very talented teams who qualified for the state tournament this year.”
Anderson, who pitched in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, said he told the players when the season began that there were hundreds of teams with thousands of kids playing Little League in Florida.
“At the state tournament, there were only eight teams and about 100 kids still standing,” Anderson said. “We were among the lucky few to have the opportunity to say we made it to states two years in a row. I told the boys … we are proud of you!”
Jacob Hayes, Eric Tollefsen and Nick Salerno were stellar on the mound. Heading into the state tournament, in 30 innings of tournament baseball, Parkland’s pitching staff struck out 48 batters and gave up only three earned runs.
Hayes also paced the offense, batting .500, while Jovanni DeFalco also performed well at the plate, including his first-ever over the fence home run.
In addition to Anderson, the team was coached by Guido DeFalco and Matt Clary.
“As a coaching staff,” Anderson said, “we feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to coach this group of talented young gentlemen. We are honored to be the only team in Parkland Little League’s history to ever qualify for the state tournament in back-to-back years. That is something our kids can hold on to forever — they’ll tell their kids about this Little League experience long after I’m gone — I have no doubts!”
Anderson also cited the support he received from the parents and the community. The city also hosted both the district and sectional tournaments.
“We had an eager group of athletes who wanted to elevate their baseball skills,” Anderson said. “Most kids showed up about 20-30 minutes early for every practice.
“Each of our 25+ practices had a very detailed process,” Anderson continued. “I basically took them through my old spring training routines. We are very intentional with all that we do…the boys understand that in order for us to achieve our lofty goals, that it is critical for us to have a process.”
The “physical” part of working with the players was complimented by including the “mental aspect” according to Anderson.
“From the time we step on that field, to the time we leave, we work with purpose and reason in all that we do,” Anderson said. “We train their minds on the mental aspects of baseball almost as much as we teach the physical. I’m very proud of how hard they have worked to elevate all aspects of their game. They have learned a ton and they are certainly being rewarded for their hard work.”
Gary Curreri is a South Florida Community News correspondent.