BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Talk about beginner’s luck.
An 11 and under boys baseball team based out of Fort Madison, in its first year of existence, went 12-2 on the year and had the highest power rating in the nation for its class at 1394 points.
According to the United States Specialty Sports Association’s website, which gives points based on sanctioned tournament performance, the River City Rebels, led the nation in Class A 11 and Under power points.
The team also finished in 2nd place at this past weekend’s state tournament in Coralville. They lost 14-13 to North Liberty with the tying run on the bags.
Head Coach Bill Cresswell said the North Liberty Team was ranked number 2 in the state. They are current third in the state and Fort Madison finished the season 26th.
“All the kids played their hearts out. We had the game tying run on third with less than two outs,” Cresswell said. “They gave all they had and came up short.”
He said the Rebels played two pool play games on Friday and came out seeded 2nd in the tourney which gave them a bye in the first round of games Saturday. They played one game Saturday and won which put them in the quarterfinals.
On Sunday, they knocked off the Cedar Rapids Bandits, 6-5 to get to the championship game. Cresswell said it was one of the best, if not the best, youth baseball game he had ever been a part of.
“That was a very good game. It was one of the better games I’ve been involved in,” he said. Both teams were good and played great baseball. There wasn’t a whole lot of errors – Great pitching and great defense, timely hits. Just one of the better games I’ve been around.”
The team was put together in January. Cresswell said some of the kids could have played on the Burlington Explosion organization, but he said it was time to try to reinvigorate the program in Fort Madison. So Cresswell and Josh Denning decided to form the team and held tryouts.
“We had 12 kids that showed up, and you know what, we just took the 12 kids we got. And even the youngest, smallest kids have had a big hand in us winning a game. From the youngest to the oldest, somebody different stepped up in a game. We didn’t have a lot of experience this year with about half of our kids playing kids a year older. I thought we were gonna take some lumps and learn baseball. We did a lot better than I expected,” Cresswell said.
He also commended the parents who helped lift the program.
“We have such great parents that dedicated their time. There was a lot of traveling, but seeing the looks on the kids faces after that state tournament makes it all worth it.”
Over the tournament weekend the Rebels went 4-1 averaging 12 runs per game and allowing five.
Over the season, the Rebels went 17-6 overall, 12-2 in Class A, which leaves a 5-4 mark against bigger teams and that contributed to their top power rating.