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Williamsport Nationals are World Series-bound

July 15, 2011|By DAN KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com

The Williamsport Nationals 17U junior legion baseball team has earned its second straight trip to the NABF World Series.

With five players — Tyler Byers (Williamsport), Justin Lewis (Boonsboro), Scott Bennett (Boonsboro), Brandon Greene (Williamsport) and Dustin Gregory (Boonsboro) — back from last year’s squad and a host of newcomers making an impact, the Nationals (35-5 overall, 23-4 Potomac League) will head to Knoxville, Tenn., looking to make an impact. Opening ceremonies will be held Wednesday, with games beginning Thursday.

“We’ve had good pitching and our offense took off and became very potent,” manager David Clugston said. “The latter part of the season, we started to jell on the defensive side as well. ... We want to go down there and win as many games as we can. We’ll face some teams from down south that play together year-round. It’s a little more challenging, but I think we can go down there and compete and make a good showing.”

The Nationals qualified for the World Series by virtue of its overall record. They won the Potomac Junior Legion League’s West Division with the best record in either division, then won the Potomac Junior Legion Summer Classic in Cumberland, Md., over Fourth of July weekend.

They’ll head to Knoxville with a well-balanced squad that’s arguably led by the offense. The top four hitters in the lineup — Austin Stone (North Hagerstown), Charles Cvijanovich (North), Lewis and Byers — are all hitting better than .400 this season.

“We’re batting about .385 as a team. Nine guys are batting over .300,” Clugston said. “It takes a lot of pressure off. If one guy’s having an off day, someone else steps up. Other guys can pick him up with the bat and that’s the way it’s worked out. There’s been days the top of the order hasn’t produced and the bottom of the order has been our powerhouse.”

Byers, Lewis and Bennett have been the Nationals’ three workhorses on the mound, with John Britton (North), Ahmere Ware (South Hagerstown) and Zane Schreiber (North) providing solid innings later in the season.

“Tyler’s a hard thrower. He tends to overpower guys, and when he starts mixing in his changeup and breaking pitches, it’s very effective,” Clugston said. “Britton is kind of sneaky fast. He’s not very big, but he throws harder than you’d think. Lewis’ primary position in high school is as an infielder, but he’s given us nice innings. Bennett has more off-speed stuff, he’s not a strikeout guy. Zane has some velocity and his control has gotten better with his off-speed pitches. Ahmere also throws the ball with nice velocity.”

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