On paper, Pleasureville Post 799 coach Elliot Ness believed that his team could contend for the York-Adams American Legion baseball title.
In reality, however, getting the young men on his roster to be at every contest was easier said than done.
“We joked about that earlier in the year when we were 2-2-2,” Ness said. “The games that we won were when we had everyone there. And the games we lost, we didn’t have many bodies there. We had nine or 10 guys some games.”
With players away for vacations, travel ball or other commitments, Ness never knew which Post 799 team he would be coaching on a given night.
The start of the playoffs, however, seems to have righted the ship in that regard.
After an impressive Y-A playoff tournament that resulted in Pleasureville winning a third-straight league crown, Ness is confident that he'll finally be assured of putting his best players on the field in the biggest tournament of the season so far — the double-elimination Region 4 event that starts Friday in Ephrata, Lancaster County.
“Last Friday (in an 11-2 loss to New Oxford) we had to play some younger guys out of position due to numbers,” Ness said. “It was 2-2 in the fifth inning, but we didn’t do the small things good. We had a lot of guys out of place. But come Friday, we should have everyone there.”
Deep pitching staff: Few teams can compete with the pitching that Ness’ team possesses. Starting with a 2-0 shutout of East Division champion Northeastern back on June 17, Post 799 allowed just 12 runs over its next nine contests.
That 11-2 loss against New Oxford in the winners' bracket final of the league playoffs was the only time since June 14 that Pleasureville (13-5-2) had allowed more than five runs in a game. Pleasureville bounced back with a 7-3 win over New Oxford in the league playoff final on Sunday.
To Ness, a lot of that boils down to experience.
“We have seven kids on the roster that were on the team two years ago that played in the Region 4 final,” Ness said. “Michael Livingston and Landon Ness both played and pitched back then.”
The emergence of youngsters Josh Marquard and Grant Smeltzer, who threw a no-hitter this season against Glen Rock, will also be relied upon by Ness to help carry a big load when the games move to nine-inning affairs at regionals. He'll also relay on Izak Nadzom, who has pitched well in limited action. Landon Ness was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher in the Y-A playoffs.
Opener vs. Paxton: Pleaureville will square off against Dauphin County champ Paxton Post 730 in the first game of the eight-team Region 4 draw at 11 a.m. Friday.
The nightcap of the first day of action will wrap up with West Division champion New Oxford (16-1) taking on the host team under the lights around 7 p.m.
“I know they have a really good lefty in Joel Sneeringer,” Ness said of Post 730. “He worked out at Full Reps in Mechanicsburg with my son (Landon) all winter. They have a really nice arm development program up there. And they have another kid, Scott McManamon, who I remember was a very good hitter. But other than that, I don’t really know much about them.”
For the most part, however, Ness is more worried about having his best team available. The Pleasureville skipper feels that if his team plays at its normal level, that it could very well be positioned to hoist a trophy come Tuesday, July 23, when the Region 4 final is set.
The key, according to Ness, is coming home Friday with that first win.
“That first game is very important,” Ness said. “You don’t really want to get yourself into the losers' bracket and have to use up all of your pitching. Not a lot of teams have enough pitching to get through that.”
Other teams: The winner of the Region 4 playoffs will advance to the state playoffs in DuBois, Clearfield County. The other teams in the Region 4 event are Lebanon County champion Campbelltown, Cumberland County runner-up Mechanicsburg, Franklin County champion Waynesboro and Cumberland County champion Dillsburg.
The other first-round games Friday pit Campbelltown vs. Mechanicsburg at 1:30 p.m. and Waynesboro vs. Dillsburg at 4:30 p.m.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.