Commentary | Manatee Cal Ripken team prepares for Southeast Regional

July 24, 2012 

The Manatee Cal Ripken 15-and-younger All-Star baseball team won't have to travel far for the Southeast Regional tournament.

Florida is the host state this year, with Ocala serving as the venue next week when Manatee represents South Florida beginning Aug. 2.

Manatee, which has players from various area schools such as Braden River, Cardinal Mooney, Bayshore and Palmetto, earned its way to the regional through a hard-fought state championship victory.

After making its way to the winner's bracket final, Manatee faced the 2011 state runner-up in Longwood. Tyler Henning, an offspeed left-hander who tallied three tournament victories, kept Longwood hitters off-balance.

Manatee induced a flyout to right field with the bases loaded to hang on for a 9-6 win.

Then Manatee was assured a place in the regionals, because that tournament's host, Ocala, knocked off Longwood in the loser's bracket final.

Manatee suffered its lone defeat 10-1 to Ocala, but subsequently earned the state title 8-7 after Ocala scored five runs in the last inning. Zack Duncan earned the save, getting two popouts and a flyout to center to strand the bases loaded and give Manatee the state championship.

Jeremy Luna was the team's leading hitter with a .600 average in the tournmaent. Luke Darnell and Duncan were the club's leading run-producers, driving in seven apiece.

Manatee opens the regional tournament against Georgia Aug. 2.

Soccer championships

IMG Academies hosted the USL Super-20 North American League Finals this past weekend. In the men's division, the Chicago Fire defeated the Columbus Crew Juniors 3-1 on Sunday for the title.

Felipe Cortez, who was the tournament's MVP, scored the game-winner.

IMG was eliminated after group play. The club was tied with FASA on seven points, and the two sides drew 1-1 in their opening match with each other.

Both teams also had two victories in group play.

So a third tiebreaker, goal differential, was used to determine which advanced as the group winner and semifinal representative.

FASA had a plus-five goal differential, while IMG's was plus-four through the three group matches.

On the women's side, the Colorado Rapids U20 defeated D.C. United Women 1-0 for the championship. Anna Evans slotted in the match-winning goal. Karisa Price was the tournament's MVP.

Martial artists at U.S. Open

Bradenton's Dojo Martial Arts competed in the recent United States Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championships at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando.

Dojo students Antonio Mendez, Andres Vega, Omar Schwanzer, Kayla Siedlecki, Adam Schwanzer, Mason Ware, Teddy Siedlecki and Noah Tratz battled competitors from 42 different countries and walked away with seven trophies and 20 medals.

Dojo sensei, Master Kevin Bergquist was given an award for Outstanding Support of the Martial Arts.

"These dedicated students work very hard all year round, after school and during the summer practicing because they take their commitment to Karate very seriously," said Bergquist of his students in a news release. "Our Karate programs teach so much more than "just kicks and punches. We help children develop life-skills that will take them far beyond the four walls of our school. Benefits that will last them a lifetime."

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at jdill@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill or on Facebook at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.

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