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Ramstein baseball back on top as tournament draws near

Ramstein celebrates winning the DODEA-Europe Division I baseball championship at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Ramstein defeated Lakenheath 8-6 to win the title. MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 1, 2019

Ramstein is playing like baseball royalty once again.

A year removed after an unceremonious ouster from a DODEA-Europe Division I baseball tournament that they formerly dominated, the displaced champions are back atop the standings this spring. The Royals are the organization’s last remaining unbeaten team, taking a perfect 8-0 record into this Friday’s doubleheader against divisional rival Vilseck.

“As a team, we have been focusing on keeping it simple,” said first-year head coach Osvaldo Garcia Carrillo. “We like to have fun and I want them to stay in the zone.”

That light-hearted approach, however, is tinged with a thirst for redemption. The Royals saw their half-decade dynasty atop Division I abruptly end last spring with an 8-7 semifinal loss to Lakenheath, who went on to become the division’s first champion other than Ramstein or fellow powerhouse Stuttgart.

“Every returning player has kept that chip on their shoulder,” Carrillo said. “Last year, the baseball gods were not on our side. The boys set a plan to improve themselves.”

That’s particularly true for seniors Jerod Junkins, Nathan Kranz and Tieran Shoffner, all three of whom were part of Ramstein championship squads prior to last year’s setback. Those three have taken lead roles in the effort to restart the Royals’ title reign.

“We have a really good group of seniors who are in charge to keep the younger players motivated,” said Carrillo, whose team has four freshmen and seven sophomores on the roster. “For my seniors ... it’s a personal goal to take the baseball crown back to Ramstein.”

That outcome is by no means assured. Ramstein has won all of its last six games by a minimum of five runs, but the season started with a significant challenge from its long-term archrival Stuttgart, which took the Royals to the limit before taking 1-0 and 5-4 losses in the March 23 doubleheader, And Ramstein will wrap up its regular season with tough road doubleheaders at second-place Wiesbaden and perennial contender Kaiserslautern ahead of its May 23 tournament opener.

Carrillo is confident this Royals team has what it takes to overcome those remaining obstacles.

“They play with swag. They do not look like a young team,” Carrillo said. “They are getting better by the day.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com

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