Alright, good. The trap is now set.
The polygraph machine is hooked up to Manassas Braves coach John Colantuoni and his team can now find out for sure if this will be their last season together or if it’s another ploy to motivate the team going into next week’s national tournament.
“It was the same thing last year,” first baseman Kenneth Morris said. “We did so well last year because we thought it was our last year together, but we decided that since we did so well last year to play another year. But this year should be it.”
The Braves finished ninth in last year’s national tournament in Sarasota, Fla. and enter this year’s competition in Kingston, Tenn. with high expectations. The team won the Virginia state title a few weeks ago at Hylton and will be the top seed in their pool when play begins on Saturday.
With all the players now playing varsity baseball at various high schools throughout the area, it will most likely be the team’s last go-around after five years together.
As the players grow older it becomes increasingly more difficult to play AAU baseball. There become more responsibilities to high school teams and American Legion as well as the chance to showcase for college scouts. So this time at nationals the Braves have more reason to believe their coach.
“It just becomes too much after awhile,” Colantuoni said. “We’d like to keep playing, but the kids have so much else going on it becomes too hard.”
The Braves, though, plan to go out in style. All the players seem confident, especially after winning the state title, and believe that they are one of the best teams at the tournament.
The Braves have proven themselves throughout the year. They took second at a qualifier in Virginia Beach earlier this year and did not lose a game at the state tournament.
“I want to win it and I think we can win it if we play well,” infielder Ryan Wood said. “Last year we saw the talent and all the teams out there. I think we have the talent to do it.”
The main reason the Braves believe they can win is because of their pitching depth. Out of the team’s 12 players, Colantuoni said that 10 can pitch, which will definitely come in handy during the week-long tournament.
The first three days are pool play. The top two finisher in each pool advance to the championship pool, while the remaining teams are put in consolations pools.
Pool play continues for the next two days and the top two teams in each championship pool advance to the single-elimination championship tournament. With all these games in such a short time, pitching comes at a premium and the Braves have a staff that might make the Major League Braves jealous.
“When you put a team together to compete, you try to get as many arms as you can,” Colantuoni said. “You never know when you will get stuck playing a triple-header or something and need to put a bunch of guys on the mound.”
Garrett Smith, Jake Brown and Josh Hankins are the team’s top three starters and Wood will also see some time in the mound during the tournament.
The group will be helped the double-play combo of Kevin Nally and Zach Terrell. Nally was a second-team Cardinal District selection as Forest Park as a sophomore and Terrell, who plays shortstop for the Braves, was All-Bull Run at third base for Manassas Park. Utility man Stephen McDonald also can play in the infield.
Jonathan Colantuoni and Adam Kearney split time behind the plate and Billy Thompson and Corey Spencer play the outfield.
“They are just a great group of kids,” Colantuoni said. “They play here because they love to play. It’s hard to raise the money and devote time like they have. We also have great parents who have made the trips, prepared the brown bag lunches during doubleheaders and did a bulk of the fundraising.”
The parents hard work should pay off watching their kids this week. The Braves enter the tournament as the 14th seed and feature the AAU 14-and-under Home Run Derby champion in Morris.
At last year’s national tournament in Fla., Morris was selected to represent the Braves in the home run derby. He slugged his way through the preliminary competition and moved onto the final with four other participants at the Cincinnati Reds training complex.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Morris hit a few shots over a 300-foot makeshift fence and then began to loosen up.
“He started to extend a little bit and banged one off the 405 sign in centerfield,” Morris’ dad Ken said. “Then he hits one to left-centerfield and it clears the fence. The announcer is going ‘Oh my god! Oh my god! I don’t think anyone has done that before!’ They think he is the first ever kid to do that. He ended up hitting like seven or eight to win the title. The guy in second had like four.”
The Braves now hope they can win the team title and go out with a bang in their last season. Well, that’s of course if this is their last season.
TALLGREN GAMES FOR LEUKEMIA THIS WEEKEND
The 15th annual Tallgren Baseball Games for Leukemia are being held this weekend at Pfitzner Stadium and Veterans Park.
The games are in memory of Robert W. Tallgren, who lost his battle with Leukemia in 1977. The tournament raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and have brought in over $100,000.
The tournament starts Saturday morning and concludes Sunday at 6 p.m. with the championship game at Pfitzner Stadium. The games include many college players as well as former major and minor leagues. Past players include Jeff Baker, Dickie Noles, Todd Rizzo and Brian McNichol.
A golf outing will be held at the Gauntlet Golf Club in Stafford this Friday at 1 p.m.. All proceeds from the golf outing will be used to pay the umpires for this weekend’s tournament.
Anyone interested in making a donation can either drop it off at the Pfitzner Stadium press box during the tournament or mail to: The Tallgren Baseball Games for Leukemia c/o the Production Center, 14142 Minnieville Rd., Suite 212, Woodbridge, Va. 22193.
Please make checks payable to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or Tallgren Baseball Games for Leukemia. All donations are fully tax deductible.
DTQ JUNIORS CAPTURE DISTRICT 9 TITLE
The DTQ (Dumphries/Triangle/Quantico) Little League Junior league all-star team won the District 9 title last week at Wall Field in Montclair. The win qualified the team for the state tournament that is currently being held in Richmond.
DTQ won the District 9 title at Wall Field in Montclair last week. They opened the tournament with a 6-3 victory over Lorton and then shut out Dale City 10-0. They lost, 10-6, to Woodbridge in their third game, but won their final three games against Fort Hunt (9-4), Central Springfield (10-1) and Woodlawn (6-3).
In the Championship round, DTQ took two of three games against Central Springfield to claim the title. They won the first game 12-4, lost the second game 6-3 and won the deciding game 12-2.
Team members are: Brian Fisher, Matt Fouch, Robert Hendricks, Mike Matta, Matt McDaniel, Donald Palmire, Jonathon Pennline, Ty Peters, Anthony Ragos, Bobby Stierwalt, Josh Vieira and Ryan Wooley. The team is managed by Bob Hendricks and coached by Lyn Fouch and Mike Vieira.
WOODBRIDGE ALL-STARS FINISH SECOND IN DISTRICT 9
The Woodbridge Little League National 9-and-10-year-old all-star team finished in second place out of 10 teams at the District 9 tournament last week in Springfield. The team came within one game of making the state tournament.
Woodbridge opened the tournament by shutting out Lorton 15-0 and then beat Fort Hunt 12-4. In their next game, Woodbridge won a wild game over West Springfield, 17-16. Woodbridge than lost to DTQ in their final game of pool play.
The team’s 3-1 record in pool play was enough to qualify them for the double-elimination championship tournament. In the first round they defeated Central Springfield, 7-6, and then dropped Woodlawn, 7-4, to qualify for the final.
In the championship game, though, Woodlawn got revenge against Woodbridge and won two against Woodbridge, taking the first game 4-3 and the championship game 5-2.
Team members are: Kevin Tatum, Brian Wirth, Zack Szwed, Tommy Kiesner, Cory Kidd, Nick Rogowski, Brandon Lusk, John Carter, Joe Smith, Jon Studholme, Austin Hale and Kyle Tatum. The team is managed by Eric Tatum and coached by Steve Kiesner and Joe Wirth.
DAGENHART GET WIN IN ALL-STAR GAME
Jeff Dagenhart (Osbourn Park ’01) was the winning pitcher in the Valley League All-Star Game last Sunday in Staunton.
Dagenhart gave up one hit over one inning for the Northern Division team to earn the victory over the Southern Division. The North won the game 15-8.
Dagenhart is 4-2 with a 1.27 earned run average this summer with the New Market Rebels. He is third in the league in ERA and opponents are batting only .156 off him. He is also second in the league with 52 strikeouts.
He was named the Valley League Pitcher of the Week for July 1-7 after throwing a one-hitter against the Harrisonburg Turks on July 5.
RUSH TAKE NINTH AT AAYBA WORLD SERIES
The Manassas-based NOVA Rush 13-and-under finished ninth out of 48 teams from across the United States at the American Amateur Youth Baseball Alliance (AAYBA) World Series in St. Louis last week.
The Rush finished second in their pool with a 3-1-1 record and advanced to the championship round. In their first round game, the Rush lost a 13-inning heartbreaker to the South Farmington (Mich.) Blues 8-7. The Blues entered the game with a 56-5 record and sent the Rush to the consolation round after a three hour and 15 minute battle.
The Rush, though, won their final three games in the consolation round to claim ninth place in the tournament and finish the tournament with a 6-2-1 record.
Team members are: Roger Bohon, Mike Brooks, Gil Rodriguez, Mike Walters, Mike Furr, Mike Carroll, Chris Davis, Kevin Kirk, Ross Gaylord, Daniel Jones and Andrew Baggerly. The team is coached by Robert Brooks, Barry Davis and Gil Rodriguez
Volcano ALREADY at Nationals
The Virginia Volcano 14-and-under AAU team is currently at their national tournament in Norman, Okla. The tournament started July 18 and runs through July 28.
The Volcano finished second in the Virginia state tournament in late June. The team is made up entirely of players from Prince William County.
Team members are: Matt Bryant, J.T. Gregory, Matt Rainbolt, Todd Dailey, Sam Bolton, J.B. Blixt, Justin Kraft, Eddie West, Josh Steinberg and Jeff Hartman. The team is coached by Jim Bryant.
David Stegon covers summer baseball for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at 703-878-8053 or by e-mail at [email protected]