Three teams from Florida Little League District 26 -- the district that encompasses all of Manatee County -- sent one team to the Little League State Baseball Tournament and two to the State Softball Tournament this past weekend, and two more teams will be at state tournaments the next two weekends with a chance to reach the U.S. Southeast Region Tournament.
After winning the Section 4 baseball tournament last weekend, Lakewood Ranch went 1-2 in the 10-11 division in Crystal River, falling short of the state championship game despite a 16-6 win against North Springs in its final game of All-Star season.
Palmetto sent two softball All-Star teams to state tournaments, too. The 9-10 team beat Windermere by 21 runs in its first game in Seminole before falling to Cape Coral with a spot in the state championship game on the line. The seniors team went 0-2 at its state tournament in Fort Myers.
The two winners of Section 4 majors tournaments Saturday -- Ranch for baseball and Palmetto for softball -- will head to state tourneys over the next two weeks eyeing spots in the Southeast Region Tournament.
The Palmetto All-Stars head to Rockledge on Friday and Lakewood Ranch's All-Stars will be in Tallahassee beginning July 31 where they will play District 6 champion Sarasota American in their first game.
IMG wins Super-20
The final game of the USL Super 20 Championships on Saturday came down to extra time with rivals separated by only dozens of miles squaring off at IMG Academy. Finally, midway through the second half of the extra 30 minutes Matt Lieshout broke through for his second goal of the game, handing host IMG Academy the men's Super-20 League title with a 3-2 win against Tampa Bay United.
Tampa Bay was reduced to 10 men during the second half after Michael Bajza was shown his second yellow card and still United was able to rally during the final five minutes to even force extra time.
"We had the upper hand with the red card," Lieshout said to the Super-20 League website, "so that made life a little bit easier. But still, the boys had to work hard to get the result in the end."
Lieshout first put IMG ahead with a goal in the first 45 minutes, but Tampa equalized on a goal with three minutes remaining. Two minutes later, the Ascenders jumped back ahead and again TBU equalized on a goal by Roberto Preciado.
After a scoreless first 15 minutes to overtime, Lieshout and IMG capitalized on its man advantage to win the championship.
The Ascenders went 3-1 throughout the weekend, beating Potomac SC from Maryland and New Jersey's Parsippany SC. IMG's only loss came against New York's Long Island Rough Riders on Friday in the second game of a doubleheader.
MBS qualifier for AMI
The final of four Major Beach Soccer National Championship across Florida will begin at Coquina Beach on Saturday with 10 divisions in play hoping to reach the 2015 National Championships in December.
Previous qualifying ML Beach Soccer tournaments were held in Fort Lauderdale, Clearwater and Daytona. The final qualifier scheduled for August in Fort Myers was canceled. Games will be played from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Headed to Virginia
After winning the state tournament, Manatee is heading to Glen Allen, Va., this week for the Cal Ripken Southeast Regional Tournament. Play begins Wednesday and will determine the best team from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. The champion will advance to the World Series on Aug. 8 in Arkansas.
David B. Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @DBWilson2.