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North 8U wins Babe Ruth district crown
June 13, 2018

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In what was the most competitive district championship series, the North Fort Myers Babe Ruth baseball program more than held its own against strong programs such as Clewiston, Naples and Cape Coral.

It even earned itself a district crown in the 8U division, coming from the loser's bracket to down Cape Coral twice on Sunday after rain forced delays in the tournament that pushed championship games back to Monday night.

As a non-sanctioned tournament, they don't win a district championship. That will be determined this week when the team travels to Ocala to play starting Wednesday. If they win that, they go to states.

"We lost Saturday, which meant we had to win twice Sunday and we did," said Randall Sturrup, 8U head coach. "To get seven- and eight-year-old kids to focus long enough, that's a great achievement."

Cape Coral beat North Fort Myers 8-6 on Saturday, forcing North into the loser's bracket where it clobbered Clewiston late Saturday to earn another chance.

Playing at 8 a.m. Sunday, North forced a deciding game with a 6-2 win, then held on in the championship game 8-5.

North's 6U team, by virtue of having no competition this past weekend, will advance to states as it did last season.

In other action, North's 10U team lost its opportunity to play in Monday's championship game with Naples as Clewiston held on for a wild 16-14 win in the loser's bracket finals on Sunday.

The 12U team saw by far the most competition, having to fight its way out of the loser's bracket following a 6-1 loss Thursday.

Playing against some of the weaker teams, North downed Sanibel and Punta Gorda (which beat Cape Coral for its first tournament victory in years), handily. Moving to Sunday against Clewiston.

There, North battled back from an early 7-0 deficit to tie the game.

North 14U team got off to a strong start by routing Punta Gorda, playing in its first All-Star tournament in four years. However, they lost to Lewiston and Naples to eliminate them.

Jason Estes, president of North Fort Myers Babe Ruth, said the program did well, especially in the younger divisions, thanks to a better caliber of players they have put on the field this season.

"Our 6U, 8U, and 10U divisions are pretty strong and we've competed. The quality of baseball, the number of kids is what we're focusing on and we're seeing the fruits of that," Estes said. "This is the largest participation for All-Stars we've seen."

Chuck Phoenix, tournament director and District 15 commissioner, said it was refreshing to see so many new teams in the field. Punta Gorda and Alva put teams in for the first time in years.

"It's been a great tournament with great enthusiasm despite rain and a blackout Friday. We've had some great games including one with a walk-off home run," Phoenix said. "It's pretty festive to have all these teams here. It's the first time we've had all the leagues bring at least one team."

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