The Cape Coral American All-Stars have been on a mission throughout the 9-year-old District 9 Tournament pool and championship rounds.
It started with the selection of the 12 players that took the field at Fleishman Park to face South Fort Myers Thursday night in the championship game.
After the player selection, the boys were taken to their clubhouse at Koza-Saladino Park to view the league's championship banners.
Cape American All-Star Levi Shuck makes a pitch during his team’s 9-year-old District 9 championship win Thursday at Fleishman Park. More photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
"We wanted to show the kids the banners that other players had won in the past - and that Cape American had not won one since a 9-year-old team did it in 2004," said CCA manager Bill Shuck.
They responded with a 9-2 victory over South to take home another banner to hang in the clubhouse.
"This banner is significant for this team and the organization," said Shuck. "It's been our goal to get a banner back to our field. Fort Myers teams have been a dynasty for a long time, but these kids are special. Throughout pool play we've been aggressive on the bases and at the plate. These kids believe in their hearts that they can hit."
CCA banged out 12 hits while striking out just three times. The manager's son, Levi Shuck, led the hit parade with three doubles, including two in the fifth inning in which CCA scored six runs on five hits while taking advantage of two South errors and two batters hit by pitches. Tony Rios contributed a two-RBI triple. CCA scored a total of five runs after two were out in the rally that broke the game open with Cape leading 3-2 headed into the sixth.
South took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Justin Hughes and Connor Parnell opened the rally with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up to second and third, Mike Gerwitz cracked a two-run single to right field. Gerwitz, though was thrown out at second base by CCA catcher Barron Northrop trying to take second on the throw home.
That was all the damage South could muster against starting pitcher Levi Shuck, who recorded eight strikeouts without walking a batter through 5 1/3 innings. Corbin Farmer finished it off, striking out the final batter.
Cape - 5-0 in tournament play - countered in the bottom of the third inning with two runs to tie the game. Rios started it with a single and Northrop reached on a dropped fly ball in left field. With one out, Levi Shuck delivered his first of three doubles in a row, a two-run shot to the gap in left field.
Some daring baserunning cost Cape a run in the second when Joe Gregoire was thrown out at home plate trying to steal third and headed home on an overthrow.
"We've tried to be aggressive on the bases in all of the past five games," said Bill Shuck. "We wanted to show everyone that we belong out here. The Cape had become known as a passive organization and we wanted to change that."
Cape had one other runner thrown out at third base on a controversial call in the fourth. Jason Miller was called safe when South threw to third on Northrop's single in shallow left. It would have loaded the bases, but after the umpires huddled Miller was called out on a forceout.
In the sixth, after Levi Shuck's leadoff double, South changed pitchers and Cape teed off. Gregoire chopped a ball between the mound and first base where Dominic Ursitti grabbed it and ran to first base for the unassisted out. Levi Shuck, however, rounded third and headed home to score the first run without a throw.
The next seven batters all reached base on hits, hit by pitches and two South errors to seal the victory.
"Nate Northrop, Derek Hoines and I have been coaching in this league the last five years and we knew, we could see, a special group of kids was coming up," said Bill Shuck. "This was a real team effort."
The 9-year-old tournament is the first six District 9 All-Star divisions that will be played over the next month. The 9-10 year-old tournament begins June 22 with the 10-11s, majors, juniors and seniors getting under way over the next seven days.
Three softball division tourneys all begin July 5.
South FM020 000 - 2
Cape American002 16x - 9
W - Levi Shuck. L - Justin Hughes.
2B - Levi Shuck (CCA) 3. 3B - Tony Rios (CCA).
LOB - SFM 4, CCA 7.