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Defense key for National 11 All Stars
National 11s 2
Sergio Romo of the Turlock National 11-year-old All Stars makes a routine outfield play at practice on Thursday at Soderquist. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The Turlock National 11-year-old All Stars come into the season as the runner-up for the 10-year-old District 73 title, something the squad hopes to improve on this year.

The National 11s are headed by Aaron Bates, who was an assistant for the top Majors team during the regular season, and he brings along two of his players from the Giants in Matt Morris and Zachary 'Taz' Loftis to help solidify a strong group of 13.

“I'm honored to be selected to be able to coach an All Star team and we gotta great group of guys with lots of knowledge and great parents and it’s awesome to see that,” said Bates.

After finishing second to the Turlock American team last year, the squad which is primarily the same as last year's, seems to have gotten better and they will need it if they hope to compete in a very tough 11-year-old bracket.

Offensively, the team looks as solid as any with a handful of great contact hitters such as Sergio Romo, Chase Gilbreth and Luke Fountain helping as utility players.

“Where we are right now, we don't have a big, strong kid but what we have are kids that will hit a lot of line drives and lots of opposite field power,” Bates said. “We know the American team is powerful and many others so we will have to play our butts off.”

The National 11s are lacking one real ace pitcher, however, Bates said that he has nine guys who could pitch for him.

“We don't have the overpowering pitchers, but we have about eight or nine kids that can pitch so we have depth,” Bates said. “If we do our job, we will be tough.”

Another strong focal point for Bates' squad will be the defense which essentially is rostering seven players who can play shortstop and multiple infield utility players.

“Defensively, we've got a bunch of athletes,” said Bates. “We will be strong there for sure. At this age we expect to have fun and work hard and we have a commitment to the team as well, but we will play as hard as we can if we do that we should do well.”

The Turlock National 11s will take on the 11-year-old American side for their first game of the District 73 All Star bracket at 4:30 p.m. Monday in Atwater.

“Success is playing as hard and long as they can,” Bates added.