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Diamond Report

Little League baseball: Avon's 11U team hopes to continue its dominant play at state tournament

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    Avon's Jimmy Thomas, Gavin Hughes and Matt Maxey take a break during practice earlier this week as they prepare for the Little League 10U state baseball tournament that begins Saturday in Ironton.

    JIM POLACZYNSKI / CHRONICLE

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AVON — The Avon 11U Little League team has only been practicing together for a little more than a month but it’s already had a season’s worth of success.

Avon cruised through the District 3 Tournament, winning three games by a combined margin of 31-2. Now it’s ready to take the show on the road as one of nine teams to qualify for the state tournament, which begins Saturday in Ironton.

“It’s really special because I think we’re only the fourth team from Avon to make it to state,” shortstop Matt Maxey said. “It’s been a really fun experience. We’ve worked on this team to make it this far.”

Although the tournament team has only played three games together, the process of putting the squad together started early in the season.

“This is an accumulation of players from all of Avon Little League,” Avon coach Tim Hughes said. “We have over 20 teams. The coaches nominated players and then we had tryouts.”

Then they had to get down to the business of selecting the 14 players who would represent Avon in tournament play.

“There’s a lot of talent in the city of Avon, a lot of well-deserving boys,” Hughes said. “I wish I could have carried 20. I hope we made the right decisions.”

Avon begins state tournament play Saturday against District 5 champion Mount Vernon at 4 p.m.

“I’m going to be a little bit nervous but I’m really excited,” second baseman Jimmy Thomas said. “Some of us have been playing together on the same team since April but we all know each other well. The best of this is just being able to keep playing baseball and having fun.”

According to first baseman Gavin Hughes, the fact so many Avon players had already built relationships with each other helped the team quickly evolve into a cohesive unit.

“I thought from the start we’d have a good team,” Hughes said. “We’re all friends and we’ve known each other for a while, so we have good chemistry. It helps that we’ve been on some of the same teams so we know how each other plays.”

Hughes understands Avon isn’t likely to have it as easy in Ironton as it did in the district tournament.

“We know the teams down there are going to be just as good as us,” Hughes said. “We’ve just got to work hard and put up a fight.”

The team has been practicing for 90 minutes a day on an almost daily basis to get ready for state.

“We’ve practiced a lot for this,” Maxey said. “We practice longer and harder and do more drills than we did with any other team. That’s helped us get way better, especially with our hitting.”

While the players may not yet realize how big of a deal it is to play in the state tournament, it’s something that hasn’t been lost on their coach.

“This has been super-exciting,” coach Hughes said. “It might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of these boys. I never went to the state tournament when I played baseball. It’s been exciting for me that I get to go with these guys.”

Coach Hughes wants his players to be ready to bring home a championship trophy, but win or lose he wants them to enjoy the journey.

“Winning is not the be all and end all,” Hughes said. “Everything we do from here on out is a learning experience for all of us. It’s going to be a great experience.”

Contact Todd Shapiro at 440-329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

Avon 11U Little League roster: Tommy Urbancic, Andrew Falasco, Richard Clapham, Ian Cain, Dominic Singleton, Brendan Heams, Antonio Sidoti, Robby Sykora, Matt Maxey, Gavin Hughes, Jimmy Thomas, Connor Bingham, Aiden Atkins, Baron Eberly.

Head Coach: Tim Hughes

Assistant Coaches: Jeff Cain, Tim Maxey

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