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Little League teams finish seasons

Hosting the Presidents tournaments apparently gave only one Little League team from Land O'Lakes a home-field edge.

The Senior Dodgers (ages 14-15) went 3-2 to finish third among 14 teams in the playoffs, while the Major Braves (ages 10-12) bowed out of their double-elimination tournament with two straight defeats.

"Playing at home is always an advantage because of familiarity and the closeness of the field," Dodgers manager Clint Hartmann said.

The Dodgers, who finished fourth in last year's tournament, received a first-round bye as hosts. They played five games in seven days, including the last two in the loser's bracket at South Brandon. Land O'Lakes beat Temple Terrace twice, 7-4 and 6-2, and Southeast once, 4-1; the team lost to North Brandon 14-1 and Lutz 2-0.

Bryan Koehler led the Dodgers with a pair of home runs in the series. His first blast over the fence was the game-winner in the first win over Temple Terrace.

J. C. Perez, Kevin Collins and Mike Tompkins also "hit the ball well," Hartmann said.

On the mound, Land O'Lakes got three complete-game wins: two from Grant Huffman and one from Koehler.

Defensively, shortstop Kelly Hartmann was solid and Todd Babij ran down several balls hit to the outfield.

"Our kids played extremely well as a team," Hartmann said. "They stayed focused on playing well."

That playoff experience will be beneficial to the Dodgers' five returners, Hartmann said. "It teaches them leadership and the ability to focus on each game and how important it is."

The Land O'Lakes Senior All-Star squad has been selected. The 14 players are: (Dodgers) Huffman, Babij, Koehler, Hartmann, Collins, Tompkins, Billy Thacker and Justin Tracy; (Yankees) Adam Shorts, Mark Harmon, Matt Gulino, Chris Riggins, Jimmy Hebink and Russell Clarke.

Hartmann is the all-star manager and Mike Kruck is the coach.

In other Little League news, the two-time Land O'Lakes champion Braves, 46-4 over the past two years, did not last long in the Majors Division playoffs. They were beaten by East Point, 6-0, and by North Seminole, 2-1.

"We lost a heartbreaker," Braves manager John Denicourt said of the North Seminole game.

Victor Roldan's homer gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in that contest, but two errors and three hits led to North Seminole's two unearned runs in the sixth inning.

"We're a real young team," Denicourt said. "We only have three 12-year-olds. It was basically age."

John Babij was the hard-luck pitcher against North Seminole, striking out 13 in defeat.

"He was throwing so well," Denicourt said. "His fastball's unbelievable, and they finally caught up to it. The third time the batting order came around they timed it."

Leading the Braves' offense were Brandon Vari, Tyler Baker, Roldan and Babij. Catcher Chip Whalen and centerfielder Adam Denicourt sparked the defense.

The remaining Braves included: Greg Rosenthal, Michael Garcia, Jeff Kirby, Jared Walker, Aaron Manning and Jeff Robinson.