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Regional is stage for future stars

The Southern Regional starts Monday in Gulfport. The winner goes to Williamsport.

Cal Ripken Jr. has been here. Jimmy Key too.

Years before they became so recognizable, Ripken, Key and a smattering of other professional players battled for one of youth baseball's most prestigious prizes. For more than 30 years, the road to Williamsport, Pa. _ site of the Little League World Series _ has gone through this tiny St. Petersburg suburb.

Tomorrow's stars are here today and they aren't in a hurry to leave. At least not until Aug. 17.

That is when one team of 11- to 12-year-olds will walk out of Arnold S. White Sr. Stadium as the Southern Regional champions and advance to the World Series.

The Southern Region consists of teams from 13 states as far west as Texas and as far north as West Virginia. Coral Springs American Red will represent Florida after winning its first state title last weekend.

It's the first time in six years that a team from Broward County won the state crown.

Coral Springs (14-1) lost its first game of the season, 8-3, to Haines City in the state tournament. The loss dropped the all-stars into the losers bracket and Coral Springs needed to battle back in the double-elimination event.

With its season on the line, it advanced out of the losers bracket and defeated Haines City twice to capture the title.

Calvin Reyes, also noted for his home-run power, threw a complete game and got a 10-0 win in the first contest against Haines City. Gary Pierpont Jr. followed with a complete game 1-0 victory in the championship game.

In its last three games, Coral Springs has outscored its opponents 31-1.

Eddie Maddox, who played with the Tigers, Senators, Rangers, Yankees, Orioles and Mets in 11 major-league seasons, is a coach for Coral Springs. The team is led by his son, pitcher/first baseman Jared Maddox.

The team also has more history on its side. All but one player on the team won the state title as 9-10 year olds two years ago.

Coral Springs doesn't play its first game until Tuesday night at 7 against Texas. But Little League Southern Regional Director Ted Trivigno, staging his 10th tournament, said he expects all the action to be exciting as usual.

"I find it to be very rewarding for the children," Trivigno said. "I've seen many, many games which exhibit good sportsmanship and God-given talent. In my opinion, you are going to see some of these players on TV someday."

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