Union County enters Babe Ruth Tournament feeling confident
Union County outfielder Deric Mussatto knows it won’t be easy, but he is also aware of the opportunity the squad has in front of them.
“We have as good of a chance of winning as everybody else does,” Mussatto said. “But as 14-year-olds, it would be pretty fantastic to win a 15-year-old state tournament.”
The Union County All-Star baseball team begins its quest to make their goal a reality tomorrow when the North Oregon Babe Ruth 13 to 15-year-old state baseball tournament gets underway in Ontario.
Even though the team is composed mostly of 13-and 14-year-olds and will face teams loaded with 15-year-olds, the squad is
confident it can hang with any opponent.
“We’ve seen these teams last year, and we got third at state,” Andrew Peasley said. “So I have no worries about that. We just have to keep our composure.”
The All-Stars, who finished the season with a 25-5 record, open the tournament with a 9 a.m. Thursday showdown with Clackamas, then take on The Dalles at 3 p.m. Pool play continues Friday when they play the Snake River Valley Nationals at 9 a.m., and Pendleton at noon. The four teams with the best records from the pool play advance to the championship round on Saturday, with the championship game slated for later in the evening.
Head coach Lee Atkinson is aware that at this point in the season, their ability to grind through the grueling summer games will be key.
“It’s been a long season,” Atkinson said. “One of the things when you get to the state tournament is that it seems to be the team that is not only fundamentally sound, but still focused on the game, are the teams that can advance and make a good run.”
Atkinson hopes to avoid the pitfalls last year’s team had at the state tournament.
“We had a great district tournament, then we had a week-and-a-half lag. When we showed up at state, you wouldn’t have even known we were the same team,” Atkinsons said. “We couldn’t find the strike zone on the mound, had a lot of three-up and three-down innings at the plate, then our kids are out in the field defensively for twenty minutes.”
One thing that is working in their favor is the genuine fondness the players have for each other.
“The chemistry with this team this year and the excitement is different than what we had last year,” Atkinson said. “I feel confident that we are going to play on Saturday and advance to the championship game. If the team that i know shows up for the first two days, and we get to play on Saturday, I think we have a really good shot at playing Saturday night.”
That chemistry makes the practices feel like a fun outing with buddies rather than a forced necessity.
For the full story, see Wednesday's issue of The Observer