BOULDER — The North Boulder Little Leaguers have sampled some of the best Texas has to offer over the last few years.
They've attended a Rangers game in Arlington, eaten some tasty barbecue and taken in a lot of the sites and sounds of the Lone Star State.
Baseball, while not an afterthought, was kind of on the back burner in. But after making history in 2015 by becoming the first Colorado team to ever reach a Southwest Regional Final in Waco, the Wildcats are taking a more business-like approach this time after recently claiming their fourth straight Colorado state title.
"Three years ago, they were just excited to be there and there was always that mindset that a team from Colorado would go down there and it was just an uphill battle, more of a vacation," said manager Woody Woolwine, whose team rolled to its fourth consecutive state title last week. "Last year we took it a little bit differently and we thought we knew a little bit more about what we were getting into."
The Wildcats went to Waco with the thought that they were going to show the national juggernauts from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana that they could compete and make a run at Williamsport, Pennsylvania and the Little League World Series.
The philosophy paid off and Woolwine's youngsters made it all the way to the title game against Pearland (Texas) West before falling 9-2 in their quest to become the first team to represent the Centennial State in Pennsylvania.
Another year stronger and another year wiser to their surroundings, Woolwine and his bunch understand that winning is a distinct possibility, but they are keeping their expectations simple.
"I'm not saying we are going to go down there and win it by any means, but we believe that if we play our best game we can be there again on ESPN," said Woolwine, whose team opens against the Oklahoma representative on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. on the Longhorn Network. "That's kind of our team goal is to again be there at the end and to get on ESPN, you have to be one of the last three teams alive."
The Wildcats are loaded with talent and while cruising through the state playoffs, the numbers were, shall we say, gaudy. They have a cumulative team batting average of .562, led by leadoff hitter Cooper Conroy's .882 average ... he's 15 for 17.
Keep an eye on the explosive bats of Alex Rucker, Dillon Souvignier, AJ Armstrong and Derek Woolwine.
There is plenty of talent on the mound as well with Armstrong, Souvignier and Trey Harman. Rucker, who will likely be a television darling — he checks in at over 6-feet tall and throws a 75 mph fastball already — is brand new to the sport
"We just want to believe that we are closing the gap and taking care of ourselves and not going down there worried about the other teams," Woody Woolwine said. "We were taking our baby steps before and we realize now that to be good enough to say you are a representative of the Southwest Region, you have to be a really good complete team."