Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 will open district tournament play this evening when they take on St. Clairsville Post 159 at Don Schaly Stadium.
Post 389/750 enters the four-team tourney on quite a roll as they have reeled off 15 wins in their past 16 games to improve their season mark to 23-12.
The biggest challenge of the 2014 season for Beverly/Lowell head coach Todd Engle has been to get all 18 of his kids at the park at the same time.
MIKE?MORRISON The Marietta Times
Beverly/Lowell’s Isaac Huffman (11) slides into home plate against Parkersburg Post 15 at Fort Frye High in Beverly Saturday. BevLow is scheduled to open up district tournament play against St. Clairsville at Don Schaly Stadium tonight.
"This is the first time all season long that we have had all of our kids here at the same time," said the veteran head coach after last Saturday's double header sweep over Parkersburg Post 15. "I really like this team when everyone is here and now that they are we are starting to make some noise."
The 2014 version of the "Boys of Summer" has been a strong defensive unit with solid pitching and the ability to come up with the big hit in the clutch.
Drawing St. Clairsville in the opening round could prove quite a challenge for Engle and his team as it will more than likely have to face Post 159 ace Michael "Zuke" Jacob, a southpaw who has already beaten B/L twice in the 2014 season, including a two-hit shutout back on June 1 at Beverly.
Beverly/Lowell's lone left handed pitcher, Justin Hill, returned the favor by tossing a three-hit shutout in the nightcap against St. Clairsville and the recent Warren grad could well get the nod in Thursday's opener.
Right handers Ben Barnas, Caleb Heller, Phillip Hoffman, Blake Kidder and Kyler Dennis have all pitched well of late and Engle and first year pitching coach Evan Sawyer could well pick any of the five to begin the tourney.
Offensively, shortstop Jake Ullman has settled in to the lead off spot followed by former Warren third baseman Ethan "Smooth" Estes in the two-hole.
Joining Estes and Ullman on the Bev/Low infield figure to be either Dennis or Joel Estes at second base and Derek Layton at first base.
Layton will find himself in the middle of the lineup as the Fort Frye Cadet has been lethal all season long with runners in scoring position.
"Derek has just been unbelievable this year with runners on base," said Engle of Layton, who has also seen time at the hot corner and on the mound. "His batting average is well over .300 but with runners on base it has to be over .600."
Another Warren graduate, Gunnar Smith will handle the catching duties while Engle has mixed and matched all season long in the outfield.
While Lance Schafer has played almost every game in center field, Isaac Huffman and Trent Bradford have split time in left field and Bryce Gandee and Devin Leister have seen the most time in right.
Schafer is an outstanding defensive center fielder who has recently shaken out of a hitting slump and could well be a key for Post 389/750 to get out of the District tournament.
The Mike Jacob-led St. Clairsville squad comes into the game with an outstanding 22-8 mark on the season. In the other first round match up, defending champion Cambridge Post 84 (16-19) is heavily favored against Zanesville Post 29. a team that is in the midst of a down year.
Much like Beverly/Lowell, the Ron Antill-coached Cambridge club comes into the tourney on quite a roll as they won all six games to claim the Don Coss tournament back on the fourth of July. Beverly/Lowell split a double header with Cambridge back on June 3, while Post 389/750 routed the Dan Murphy led- Zanesville squad 14-5 back on the 27th of June.
Zanesville and Cambridge are scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch with the Beverly/Lowell/St. Clairsville game scheduled for 7.