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Northside duo seeks national team berths

Northside Christian's Brian LeClerc and Lastings Milledge were among 48 players selected by USA Baseball for the final phase of tryouts for the Youth National Team, which begin today in Houston.

Milledge, a centerfielder, and LeClerc, a second baseman, were chosen from among players 16 and younger who participated in the Junior Olympic Championships on June 22-30 in Jupiter.

It was one of two simultaneous Junior Olympic Championship tournaments (the other was in Tucson, Ariz.), and 24 players from each tournament were selected. More than 2,000 players in all participated.

LeClerc, playing for the Tampa Tornadoes, went 12-for-23 (.522) with 5 doubles and 6 stolen bases in the tournament. Milledge, playing for the Orlando Scorpions, went 11-for-21 (.524) with 2 home runs, 3 triples, 3 doubles and 10 RBI.

The final cut from 48 players to 18 will be made following the Youth National Team Trials.

Players will be timed and measured in various drills and participate in a tournament. They will be divided into three 16-member squads and play in a four-team (including one local team) round robin tournament at Cougar Field at the University of Houston.

The final team will be announced July 27 and will represent the United States at the 12-team World Youth Championships Aug. 3-12 in Veracruz, Mexico.

The other countries participating are: Australia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Spain, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and Venezuela.

Milledge almost made the team last year.

After being selected to attend the trials, Milledge ran the third-fastest 60-yard dash. And in five intrasquad games, he went 7-for-16 (.438) with 5 RBI, 8 runs and 4-for-4 in stolen bases.

However, a sore shoulder limited him to designated hitter duty for the last two games, and a doctor diagnosed it as needing a month of rest.

As a result, Milledge was left off of the team.

"Considering what happened last year, you have to like Lastings' chances of making it," Northside Christian coach Darrell Don said. "I think he has a good shot at being the starting centerfielder.

"Brian had the highest batting average until the last day at the Jupiter tournament, so he has a good shot also."

Milledge and LeClerc are entering their junior seasons at Northside Christian. Milledge was a Times first-team All-Pinellas selection this season for the second time, batting .545.

LeClerc, who missed about one-third of the season with an ankle injury, batted .403 and was selected honorable mention all-county.

Mustang named among

best in national showcase

Northside Christian outfielder Steve Doetsch was the No. 6-rated rising senior at the Team One Baseball National Showcase July 5-7 in Tempe, Ariz., according to www.teamonebaseball.com.

About 120 players attended the elite, invitation-only camp.

East Lake's Mike Billek, who is participating in the Team One East Coast Showcase this weekend at Clemson University, also will be at the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase on July 31-Aug. 5 at UNC-Wilmington.

Billek was a second-team All-Pinellas pitcher for the Eagles this season.

Dunedin's Brian Dopirak and Osceola's Jimmy Kubek also will be at the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase.

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