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Familiarity may breed success

(ran PC edition)

One telltale sign of a Little League All-Star team's potential is to see how the league's champions fared in the district Tournament of Champions. Even then success can be misleading if only a few players from the champs make the All-Star team.

But there's no reason to question the chances of the Zephyrhills Little League's 11-12 Majors All-Stars, who hope to continue the success of the league champion Marlins, who went 20-0 during the season and finished third out of 17 teams in the Tournament of Champions.

"I have a lot of my own kids, so they know each other and they know what I expect of them on the field," said All-Stars manager Marty Monbarren, who has eight players from his Marlins team among the 14 on his All-Star roster. "I also coached a lot of this team as 9-10 All-Stars, so most everybody has played together for some time."

Leading the Marlins contingent are a pair of aces in Austin Adams and Kenton Monbarren, who also battled for the team's batting crown all season. Adams goes to first when he's not pitching, and Monbarren can play shortstop when he's not on the mound. Josh Debyah, a strong third pitching option, also is from the Marlins, as is catcher Ralph Rodriguez.

The talent on the All-Star roster isn't limited to the league champs; one of the team's best all-around players is C.J. Gennaro, who can play second or short and pitch and may have the best infield glove on the team. Another standout, Bradley Sopp, was one of eight players voted onto the All-Star team by league managers.

The team's strong points look to be pitching and camaraderie: Six of the players were on last year's 11-12 All-Stars, who finished third in the district; and most played on a 9-10 All-Star team two years ago, winning four games in the district tournament.

"Our pitching is going to win some games all by itself," said Monbarren, whose team opens play in Plant City on Saturday against Polk City. The district's 14 teams are split into two brackets, with the top two teams in each advancing to the final four in Lake Wales on Thursday.

Steady rains subsided enough to give the team plenty of onfield practice time in the past two weeks, with some some workouts lasting three hours. Monbarren said what he likes about this team is its eagerness to play and keep its season going as long as possible.

"I always look for good attitudes when I have these teams," he said. "So I have good pitchers and good hitters, but first I know I have good kids. They're all good ballplayers."