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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: John McKinnis works on fielding during a Union County Babe Ruth baseball practice Tuesday evening. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: John McKinnis works on fielding during a Union County Babe Ruth baseball practice Tuesday evening. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

They didn't win their district tournament, but the Union County Babe Ruth 15-year-old baseball players are going to state as an at-large team.

Union County starts the tournament at Leo Adler Field in Baker City with a 2 p.m. game today against Southeast Portland.

The tournament, which starts with a round-robin format, continues through Saturday, with the finals Sunday.

Defense will be the trigger for Union County's success, according to coach Monty McIntosh.

"In Ontario (at district) we seemed every day to improve defensively," McIntosh said. "We went from quite a few errors to hardly any."

Union County lost the district championship game to the Snake River Valley Nationals.

Union County's strength should be on the mound, where three pitchers — Jeff Smith, Tanner McIntosh and Nic Lequerica — threw five complete games in Ontario.

"Hopefully our pitchers can rise to the occasion," Monty McIntosh said.

Travis Hoskins, John McKinnis and Jeremy Hamill can also pitch if necessary, McIntosh said.

The team's infield includes Tanner McIntosh and Lequerica at shortstop, Hoskins at first base, Cody Campbell and Hamill at second and McKinnis and Smith at third. Charlie Schumacher and Curtis Touve will catch. The outfield includes Tanner Marshall, Daniel Johnson, Greg Crader and Alan O'Donald.

La Grande also plays at 11 a.m. Thursday against Astoria, at 8 p.m. Friday against the Baker Nationals and at 5 p.m. Saturday against Pendleton.

The top teams from the round robin advance to Sunday's semifinals.

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