Youth baseball and softball state tournaments get underway next week and the Meridian Youth Baseball/Softball program will be looking to build off the recent success its all-star teams have found in the postseason.
In last year’s state tournaments, three Meridian baseball and two softball teams won state championships and its 9U Cal Ripken and 13U Babe Ruth baseball teams both won Pacific Northwest Regional Championships.
The 13U team advanced to the Babe Ruth World Series for the second straight year, where Meridian finished in fourth place.
“Probably just a combination of a lot of kids, a lot of talent in the area,” Meridian Youth Baseball/Softball president Eric Centers said, explaining the program’s success. “A lot of good coaching.”
Despite a 100 percent turnover in the players on the 13U team from the year before, Meridian Youth Baseball/Softball was able to send that team to its second world series in as many years in 2012.
Part of that reason, Centers says, is due to the Cal Ripken 12U program.
There are two separate divisions within the Cal Ripken 12U program, one which is played with base paths 60 feet apart and one with 70-foot base paths. Meridian has an established 70-foot base path league, while Centers says many other programs are just starting to catch up.
Once players graduate into the Babe Ruth program, which starts with 13U teams, the base paths go to 90 feet.
“Just this year we’re starting to see more teams go to that (70-foot base paths), because they’ve seen the benefits,” Centers said. “The kids going on to play high school ball are more prepared for it.”
With that established program, Centers adds that it has helped the Meridian program grow in general. He estimates each year that roughly 15-20 families moving into the area settle in Meridian because of the reputation of the program.
“We have grown quite a bit,” he said. “It has significantly increased our individuals in our league due to the success of the all-star teams. By and large, it’s just a huge volunteer base with Meridian Youth Baseball and great fields we have to play on.”
Idaho state tournaments begin Wednesday, with the 9U, 11U and both 12U tournaments starting for Cal Ripken baseball teams, as well as the softball state tournament, which features 10U, 12U and 14U divisions.
The 12U baseball and softball tournaments will be hosted at Settler’s Park in Meridian, while the 9U and 11U tournaments will be held at Simplot Field in Boise.
Those tournaments run through July 13.
Babe Ruth baseball state tournaments are July 17-20, with the 13-15 and 14U tournaments taking place at Settler’s Park and the 13U state tournament being hosted in Lewiston.
The 10U Cal Ripken tournament also begins July 17 at Settler’s Park.
July 17 marks the start of regional tournaments with Meridian hosting the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournaments for softball at the Cal Ripken 9U baseball division.
Cal Ripken 10U and 11U tournaments begin July 24 at Helena, Mont., with 12U tournaments starting July 28 in Centralia, Wash.
Centralia will also host the Babe Ruth 15U, 14U and 13U tournaments starting July 28.
The Cal Ripken 10U tournament will be Aug. 10-17 in Ocala, Fla. Both 12U Cal Ripken Tournaments will be Aug. 9-16, with the 60-foot base path teams playing in Hammond, Ind., and the 70-foot base path teams playing in Aberdeen, Md.
Babe Ruth tournaments are Aug. 17-24, with the 13-15 tournament in Loudoun County, Va., the 14U tournament in Moses Lake, Wash., and the 13U tournament in Williston, N.D.
Softball World Series tournaments are Aug. 1-7. The 16U tournament is in Wilson County, N.C., and the 12U tournament is in Alachua, Fla.