MATTHEWS — Thanks to recent success and a bit of luck, the Optimist 10U baseball team was invited to participate in the Cal Ripken Southeast Regional this week.
The team finished second in last week’s Cal Ripken Eastern North Carolina State Tournament after losing to West Raleigh in the championship series. It marked the fourth straight year the 10U team finished as the runner-up.
The Southeast Regional in Matthews features 12 teams from seven different states. Typically, this tournament features state champions only, but the champions from the Bahamas declined to attend the event this season. The tournament committee then turned to Optimist and invited the team to fill in the opening.
Scott Cole, the coach of the Optimist 10U team, says that invitation came because of a strong showing in previous years.
“I guess since we’ve been there the last couple years and been successful, they gave us the call and asked us come,” he said.
This is the third straight season that Optimist 10U has played in this tournament. In 2012, Optimist advanced to the semi-finals, beating the South Carolina and Florida state champions before eventually losing to West Raleigh. In 2013, Optimist reached the quarterfinals before losing to Charlottesville, Va., but during tournament play they beat the champion from the Bahamas and Alabama.
Optimist played the first of five scheduled games Wednesday, in which they were defeated by Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 8-7. Reminiscent of their epic comeback last week in the state tournament win over Sandhills, Optimist nearly came back and won after finding themselves down 8-1 heading into the final inning. Aaron Aycock hit a three-run home run and all the momentum seemed to be on Optimist’s side, but they fell just short of a second come-from-behind win in as many weeks.
“Aaron’s had two home runs in his all-star life and both of them have been in the regionals in the last inning,” Cole said. “Last year he tied up a game in the bottom of the 6th inning with a two-run home run.”
Optimist will have four more games this week as they try to qualify for the semi-finals for the second time in three seasons. They will play two games today, one against Westside, Ala. at 11:30 a.m. and another against East Rowan at 4:30 p.m. On Friday, Optimist plays Putnam County, Tenn. at 9 a.m. and Sarasota, Fla. at 2 p.m.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.