In his 15 years of coaching Land O’ Lakes Little League, Daniel Broderick can’t recall the last time one of its youth baseball teams won a state title.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and I’ve never been a state champion,” Broderick said, during a recent interview.
The last time a Land O’ Lakes Little League baseball team won a state championship was in 2002, league officials say.
Earlier this month, Land O’ Lakes claimed the 2019 Little League Baseball Senior League Florida State Championships in Bradenton by besting seven other teams from all across the state.
They defeated Jacksonville San Mateo Little League 12-3 in the state championship game.
Before advancing to and winning states, the team of 14- to 16-year-olds mowed through districts and sectional tournaments held in Tampa, Land O’ Lakes and Plant City, respectively.
“This is a big deal for ’em here,” said Broderick, who manages the team. “For me, you can never take a state title away from them (the players). It means something. It’s a big deal for them, and I think they’re embracing it pretty well.”
The all-star players echo those spirits. Especially since Land O’ Lakes qualified for the state tournament the past two years, but came up short each time.
The manager’s son, Dylan Broderick, is a 16-year-old pitcher on the team.
Winning states — and therefore entering Land O’ Lakes Little League lore — was “like a dream come true” for the player, who also plays for Sunlake High School’s baseball team.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old and, up until now, we’ve never won states, and the dream of just winning states and moving on is amazing, and for us to actually do it and we faced a hard team.”
The state title run didn’t come without challenges.
Playing in round robin, double elimination formats, Land O’ Lakes lost initial games in sectionals and states, forcing them to play from behind and win multiple games in same days to claim the respective tournaments. They went 7-2 in all three tournaments combined, outscoring opponents by a 57-27 margin.
“We took a hard road,” the team’s manager said. “We had to dig for it, which made it better. Nothing was easy. There’s no easy teams, so it was good competition, which is going to help us going forward. There were no gimmes.”
He added: “It was emotional. Just the way we did it, and the group of parents and kids that we had, made it better. …Our guys and our team just maintained composure.”
Land O’ Lakes now has advanced to the Little League Southeast Regional in Safety Harbor. The tournament runs through July 24 and features all-star squads from six other states — Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
The regional winner then advances to the 2019 Senior League Baseball World Series in Easley, South Carolina.
“You’re coming from a very good baseball state, so we’ve got a shot,” the manager said. “You always have a shot.”
About half of the senior all-star team plays high school baseball, including players at Land O’ Lakes High, Sunlake High and Cypress Creek Middle High.
They pride themselves on being a scrappy bunch that relies on pitching depth, sound defense and situational hitting.
“Everybody can play. We just have a bunch of studs,” Dylan Broderick said, adding the team can “make the plays that need to be done.”
Beyond that is the all-star squad’s intangibles and its ability to gel as a group.
“I feel like we have a good group of kids, good attitude, good effort, and that’s the best thing you can ask of anybody,” Dylan Broderick said.
“Everyone just likes each other,” said first baseman Cade Knouse. “Even if you go 0-for-4 in a game, there’s always people there to support you. A lot of it’s just the chemistry, with the team and parents.”
“We just bonded well together, not that we didn’t in past years, but this year just worked a little differently,” added 16-year-old catcher Nick Ketterer, who’s wrapping up his third season on the senior all-star team. “I think just getting to states the last two years just made us more hungry to get further.”
Ketterer also pointed out this year’s on-field success has brought the team even closer.
“When we won districts and we won sectionals, those were confidence boosters. We come together more, we get to play more together,” he said.
As for regionals, the group is poised for a strong, deep showing, and maybe more.
“A lot of it’s just keep doing what we’re doing,” Knouse said. “We’ve definitely got to get the bats alive as we keep moving on because offense wins games.
“We’re definitely the kind of people to capitalize off errors and mistakes, and put the ball in play when needed to.”
However it ends, the all-stars will cherish each moment, as for many it will be their last season playing Little League. (The cutoff age for Little League is 16 years old.)
“I don’t want this thing to end, because I love Little League,” 16-year-old pitcher/first baseman Hayden Woods said. “If it would go up to 30 (years old), I would probably go up to 30.”
Land O’ Lakes Little League Senior All-Stars
Manager: Daniel Broderick
Assistant coaches: Mark Folkman, Patrick Cummings, Julie Ketterer
- Aidan Santana
- Alex LaVare
- Cade Knouse
- Connor Kurrack
- Damian Lampe
- Devin Canter
- Dylan Broderick
- Francis Rodriguez
- Hayden Woods
- Logan Larscheid
- Luis Nunez
- Max Folkman
- Nick Ketterer
- Nicolas Hauth
- Kennen Ayala
- T.J. Whales
Published July 24, 2019
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