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NFM plays host to best baseball players in region

July 8, 2014
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

For three sweltering days, the best teams in Cal Ripken/ Babe Ruth baseball converged on North Fort Myers Community Park to see who the best teams in South Florida were.

And North Fort Myers teams more than held their own at the 2014 South Florida State Small League Tournament, where programs that do not have the numbers of larger cities get to compete for their own crown.

North Fort Myers Babe Ruth president Bill Lemmerman hopes this tournament becomes a yearly event although fewer teams than expected made the trip on a long holiday.

"It's been a great tournament so far. It's a little small, but I'm pleased with the turnout. We have teams from as far as Daytona Beach, so that's exciting," Lemmerman said. "We have 11 or 12 teams staying in hotels, so they're spending money here. That's a good thing."

The only issue was umpires, with another tournament happening across the river, men in blue were a little scarce. But it made do.

The fact North was hosting gave the league some prestige, which could result recruiting more and better players.

"It's great for us to have an at-home state tournament. For All-Stars to have two important tournaments instead of one is good for our league, as is having people from adjoining leagues coming," North coach Ray Mehl said. "Our league is small and I think it will equal us up a little with the bigger leagues like Naples."

As for the kids, they appreciated the opportunity to play in such an event.

Aaron Cole, 12, knew the purpose of the tournament.

"It's fun. It doesn't really count, but it does. We want to win and have bragging rights," Cole said. "It feels good to host. We don't have to stay in a hotel."

The North Fort Myers U15 team went two-and-out, losing a pair of close ones to Lakeland Highlands 4-2, then saw a late rally fall short in losing to Acreage 4-3. Longwood would take the state championship.

In U12 play, a 50/70 league which was an invitational tournament, North started strong by easily beating Englewood 11-1, but ran into problems in Punta Gorda, which North had drubbed in the district playoffs two weeks ago.

Punta Gorda took a quick 5-0 lead and held on to win 7-4.

North got its revenge later, shutting out Englewood to earn a second shot against Punta Gorda. Needing to win twice, it did by scores of 7-5 and 10-8.

There was also a U12 tournament with Little League dimensions of 46/60. North did not field a team. Treasure Coast won the tournament.

In U10 play, North reached the championship game, losing to Englewood.



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