County baseball tournament Saturday

BEVERLY – Sonny Bidwell hopes long-time residents of Washington County get a little nostalgic when they see the baseball action at Fort Frye and Warren high schools on Saturday.

That’s when the Washington County Baseball Tournament kicks off the 2016 season, but Bidwell believes it is a nod to years past.

“A lot of the old timers in the area remember the ’50s and ’60s with the Washington County League,” said Bidwell, Fort Frye’s coach. “Baseball is one of those games where the little guy can beat the big guy. We’re all close and we all play each other and this should be a great opening weekend.”

Pool play begins at 11 a.m. with Frontier at Warren and Belpre at Fort Frye. Action continues at 1:30 with Frontier facing Marietta and Waterford playing Belpre.

The final games of the day pit rivals Marietta at Warren and Waterford at Fort Frye. Both games are tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. All Pool A games will be played at Warren High School, while Pool B games are being played at Fort Frye.

On Monday, the first place, third place and fifth-place games will be played at 5 p.m. at the Pool A sites (Marietta, Warren and Frontier).

“We want to establish this as a tradition and the kids are excited to be playing games against guys they know,” said Marietta coach Jim Thrash. “It’s important from our perspective to play our rival (Warren) early and get off to a good start.”

The inaugural tournament was scheduled for last spring, but the pool play was canceled because of snow. This year the weather should cooperate.

“Our goal is to always set this up on the first weekend and it will be our first games,” Thrash said. “We’re going to rotate the pools as the years go by.”

Bidwell and Thrash agreed the talent of baseball players in the county is at a high level this spring.

Marietta has seven juniors who all started last season on a team that finished with 17 victories. Trent Dawson, who won six games with a 1.85 earned-run average last season, should be the top hurler for the Tigers.

The Tigers have a solid pitching staff that includes Isaac Danford, Turner Hill, Brandon Neville, Brandon Schamp and Danny Hiser – all are juniors. Hill, who batted .385 last year, is Marietta’s top offensive threat.

Ryan Lemley’s Warren team is coming off a 14-9 campaign and is led by senior catcher Jake Davis, senior infielder Trace Schafer and senior outfielder John Sammons.

Bidwell’s Cadets are coming off a solid 15-11 season and Fort Frye finished in a three-way tie for the top spot in the Pioneer Valley Conference. Fort Frye has seven seniors back, including four-year starters Derek Layton and Isaac Klinger.

Waterford is also strong on the mound with Clay Hayes, Devyn Farley and Montana Brooker. At Frontier, pitching should also be strength with Zach Cunningham and Brent West. Belpre is going to be a young team that is dominated by juniors and seniors.

“This weekend is a showcase for a lot of good players in our county,” Bidwell said. “I would hope people would keep an eye on the Washington County teams. We have a nice little pocket of good baseball and the surrounding counties have good baseball as well.”

The first-place team will receive a traveling trophy that is named in memory of former Marietta Times sports editor Bill Robinson, and another long-time sports writer from both The Times and Marietta A.M. – Joe Davis.

“Those two spent a lot of time covering teams throughout the county,” Thrash said.

The $5 admission allows fans to watch all three games at one site, and the gate receipts are split with the ALS Foundation.

“We got snowed out last year and we only played the Monday games,” Thrash said. “Even with that we were able to still raise $250 for ALS. With a full Saturday at both sites and the Monday place games we should have an even better gate.”