WHEELING – The Ohio Valley will host more than 200 baseball games over the next four days as the Beast from the East returns for the 34th time.
The four-day tournament features 54 teams across all three age groups (19U, 16U, 14U) this year and each team is promised to play seven matches. The level of competition will be high and the schedule grueling.
“We’re thrilled for that,” said Wheeling Post 1 college coach Jon-Michael Brunner. “It’s a local tournament and we’re playing against teams we’ve never faced before. We don’t know what they have and we’re excited we can come and play on our pitch in front of our fans.
Brunner and Post 1 are no strangers to the Beast from the East and they will play six games on their home turf at JB Chambers Sports Complex I-470 over the next three days.
“It’s a chore”, Brunner continued. “With this number of games, it’s an opportunity for these guys to determine their toughness. If we can fight one court at a time, one game at a time, I think they can start turning things around around mid-July.
Position 1 will play games against the Silverstars of Canada, the Lakewood Rangers and Hiland Hawks of Ohio, the Oxford Keystone Bruisers and Armory Baseball of Pennsylvania and the Wheeling Wildthings, a local travel team.
While Position 1 will remain at home on I-470, Position 3 from Moundsville will play at their home field at John Marshall today before moving to Patterson Field for the remainder of the tournament.
“The Beast from the East – that’s what we work for”, said coach Tim Koontz. “We hope to have a race. That’s our plan… Hopefully we’ll have some good hits and some good shots.
Like Post 1, Post 3 will face teams from all over, including Michigan’s Motor City Hit Dogs, Pennsylvania TCT Kings and Canada’s Ontario Giants and Sudbury Voyagers. Moundsville will also face the Wildthings and another local team the OV Mountaineers.
Wildthings players are looking forward to their matchups with Post 1 and Post 3 as there is a lot of crossover among the high school season players.
“They’re looking forward to playing Post 1 and Post 3,” said Wildthings coach Mike Bittinger. “They circled (Thursday) night at 6 on the schedule and they circled Friday morning. These are two of the games they are excited and ready to play for.
The Wildthings attract players from Wheeling Park, John Marshall and Linsly. Station 1 pulls from Wheeling Park, Linsly and Wheeling Central and Station 3 pulls from John Marshall and Tyler Consolidated, among others.
The Wildthings will play Station 1 on I-470 today at 6 p.m. and Station 3 at Patterson Field at 8 a.m. Friday morning. The Wildthings will also play the OV Mountaineers, Lakewood, Silverstars and Bruisers.
Other local teams in the tournament include Jefferson County Legion and Madonna.
Playing seven games over four days places a high value on the pitching arms and managing their staff will be an important task for every coach.
“We’re going to need every arm this week,” said Jefferson County coach Anthony Pierro.
Coaches will face the challenge of keeping their best pitchers rested enough to make the playoffs on Sunday while remaining competitive throughout the week.
“You just have to make sure you take care of the arms you have,” Bittinger said. “It’s nice to have a team that can almost all throw like with our team. I can watch anybody and they can give me a two-inning here or there.
“There are games where you might have to throw people that you don’t normally throw and you have to see if you can handle your hitting and defending.”
Teams with larger rosters should have no trouble filling innings, but smaller teams like the Post 1 college team will need to be strategic about who pitches when and for how long.
“(Pitching coach) Dustin (Henry) is my go-to guy,” Brunner said. “If I didn’t have it, it would be really hard to do. He knows these kids, he knows what they can do, and he knows where they’re comfortable and where they’re not.
Teams will play two games each day from today through Saturday, with the playoffs beginning on Sunday.