There might be a different make-up to this year’s Laramie 11-12 year old All-Stars, but there’s little doubt about how they want to repeat as state champs.

The 11-12 All-Stars begin play in the District Tournament tonight (Monday) in Torrington. They’ll match-up against the host team in their first round game as part of a double-elimination five-team bracket.

This year’s squad is managed by Conrad Chavez, and they have only three returners from the state championship team that played at the regional in California last August.

Chavez knows it’s a contrast to what they had last year.

“Last year we had a group of kids that played a ton of games together, not only in baseball, but in basketball, as well. This group is unique. We have three returners from last year, so they have experience. The rest of these guys have fair experience, but what they have is a determination that they definitely need.”

Veteran players that are leading the way in 2017 include 12-year olds Mahlon Morris and Jaedyn Brown, as well as 11-year old Brandon Chavez. The other 10 players are new to the roster, and it’s a younger team with only five 12’s and eight 11-year olds.

Chavez did say that a lot of the 11-year olds have experience played at the all-star level, and some played while he managed the 9-10’s two years ago.

The rest of the roster includes 12-year olds Mason Branch, Billy Jenkin and Alex Mercil. The other 11’s are Samuel Hunter, Tripp Looney, Ben Malone, Jace Moniz, Tayton Moore, Tanner Schilz and Caleb Squires.

In preparation for this District Tournament, Chavez said they started with fundamentals to get them where he and his staff feel they need to be.

“We went into our offense starting to find our rotations. Who’s going to be in the field, and who will we rotate in? I think we’ve got some good pieces to work with, and we’ll see what happens.”

Chavez also feels his squad has sheer grit, and that’s big.

“These are a group of kids that have a ‘want’ and a determination. Our pitching has been a pleasant surprise. It’s not just four or five kids we need to lean on. We’ve got a few more that have risen to the top, and they’re going to be able to help us out quite a bit.”

If he has one concern, Chavez admitted it might be defensively, but still thinks they’ll be fine.

As for the tourney set-up, Chavez said it’s not a preferable set-up, as Laramie might end up playing every day this week.

“The draw is not ideal, but our team is made up to handle such a challenge, and we look forward to it.”

Then Chavez also knows there’s pressure to try to get back home and qualify for state tournament in Laramie, which starts July 26 on their home field.

“Really it’s a matter of managing our pitching. I think especially with major’s baseball, if you can manage your pitching and get a little bit of luck as well, you can make some strides. That’s probably our biggest challenge, and not looking too far ahead, and making sure we take care of the task at-hand.”

If the Laramie 11-12 All-Stars win tonight, they will advance to face Newcastle at 4 p.m. Tuesday. A loss would send them to a 1 p.m. game tomorrow against the loser of Gillette and Rawlins. The championship is slated for 10 a.m. Friday.

Chavez is assisted by Travis Brown and Todd Looney for the 2017 All-Star season.

More From KOWB 1290