On a hot, lazy late spring afternoon, just a couple of weeks before school lets out for summer break, this small band of baseball brothers is spending the first few minutes of practice goofing off.
They sling the ball around the infield, play pepper and razz each other.
A lot of these young guys have been playing baseball together since T-ball, coach Dave Campbell says.
"The only things that can beat this team is themselves," Campbell says, watching the Sequim Babe Ruth U15 all-star baseball players take infield practice. "Last year, they expected (to win). They were disappointed the way it ended."
In the summer of 2008, Sequim's U14 Babe Ruth squad lost three district games by a total of five runs, including two, one-run losses to North Kitsap in which Sequim's offense out-hit the NK visitors.
Campbell and head coach Kendall Wake expect that to change in 2009.
That, thanks to a team that excels in key areas that make champions: pitching and defense.
"Defensively, they're as good of a group as any I've seen come through Sequim," says Campbell, a longtime Sequim coach and player.
"Plus they're interchangeable," Campbell says, noting how many players can switch from infield to outfield or to pitch.
Team members are Cameron Boyd, Tyler Campbell, Frank Catelli, Tyler Forshaw, Andrew Gowdy, Kenny Henning, Jake Hudson, Taylor Magnifico, Austin Middleton, Ray Montelius, Ryan Pinza, Nick Ramirez, Lane Steichen and Karsten Wake.
If Sequim's squad does make a big run in the postseason, they won't have far to go: the district, state, regional and world series tournaments are all in Washington state in 2009.
The first tourney is districts, set for June 26-27 at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo. Thanks to three state berths and just three teams competing - Sequim, Port Angeles and North Kitsap - each team advances to the state tourney, set for July 15 in Ellensburg.
Districts will determine state tourney seeding.
Sequim's Babe Ruth squad doesn't get a whole lot of competition beyond their regular season, when they don't play on the same team, so Wake and Campbell scheduled a couple of pre-tourney games.
"This biggest thing," Campbell says with a half-grin, half-grimace, "is going to be their focus."
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.