BRANDON — Eion Mulrenin stands confidently in the batter's box for South Brandon Little League's Major baseball team. He has been a big part of the team's on-field success, hitting .450 over the past 10 games with three home runs and nine RBIs.
However, it is Mulrenin's confidence in another department that has earned his teammates' respect and loyalty. He has taken on the role of team spokesman.
“After every single practice he goes to each coach and shakes our hands and says, 'Thank you, coach,' ” coach Tony Saladino III said of his designated hitter. “After every game, he thanks all the umpires. Just an unbelievably respectful kid, and the other guys have seen that and encouraged him to speak for the team.”
Mulrenin has done just that, stepping up for his team to thank umpires, thanking the volunteers who have kept the fields playable at opposing sites, and being an ambassador as South Brandon has moved through the postseason.
He has been busy. Busy and confident.
“We've all been gelling together, and that's what this has been all about,” Mulrenin said. “We've been talking about this before all-stars started and the regular season ended. I knew we had the pitching, hitting, defense and everything it would take to win a state (title).”
On Saturday, South Brandon will take part in the Southeast Region Tournament in Warner Robbins, Ga. vying for a spot in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
After winning district and section titles, SBLL captured the state title in Fort Myers by defeating Hillsborough County foe Bayshore, 9-1, in the final.
The opportunity for this team to move on is something Saladino plans to remind his players about.
“These guys are a real close group, and I think that will help them soak it in,” he said. “I always make it a point before the game to say, 'Guys, put everything else out of your mind and take a good look around, soak all this in,' and I think our guys have done that at each level we've played.”
Marcos Herrand, Myles Caba and Malachi Woodside have been forces on the mound for South Brandon, as all three have posted double-digit strikeout totals over the past 10 games. The team's pitching has gone 9-1 in that span, allowing fewer than two runs per game and striking out 82 in 51 innings. Dino Martin and Gage Young (who also has 10 strikeouts on the mound) have handled the catching duties, drawing praise from Saladino, who said he has had the best two catchers of any team he has seen in the postseason.
On the offensive side, Herrand has been a force with 17 RBIs, three home runs and a .464 average. Young, Luke Cadwallader and Mac Jorgensen each have double-digit hit totals.
Saladino said the state title was SBLL's first since 1998, when its Senior League team reached the Southeast Regional. This year's Majors team hopes to build on that to be the first in league history to reach the World Series.
South Brandon opens region play against West Virginia on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Southeast Regional semifinals will be available on ESPN.go.com on Wednesday, and the region final will air live on ESPN on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.
South Brandon has started a fundraising site to help the team with the expenses of travel and lodging. Anyone wanting to make a donation can go to the website: http://www.gofundme.com/c7s4ps