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Williamsport Nationals aim to reach Sweet 16 at CABA World Series

July 17, 2013|By MARK KELLER | keller@herald-mail.com
  • The Williamsport Nationals junior legion baseball team will play in the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series beginning Friday in Euclid, Ohio. Front row, from left to right: Sinjin Shoop, Zack Andrews, Bryce Byers, Colby Byers, Hunter Maloy, Airin Martin and Tim Davidson. Back row: Coach Duane Myers, Coach Marc Bluma, James Shifler, Colin Everett, Cody Reifel,Wyatt Scriever, Sloane Bendell, Jeremiah Younker, Luke Harsh, Chase Eichelberger, Blake Harne and Manager David Clugston.
Submitted photo

The Williamsport Nationals junior legion team is making its third straight trip to the Continental Amateur Baseball Association 17U World Series.

The team leaves town this morning for Euclid, Ohio, hoping to take a step further this year and advance out of the pool play round and into the final 16.

“We were in most of our games last year (at the World Series) and we let a couple of them slip away,” said Nationals manager David Clugston. “But we were a young team last year. We competed last year, but we think we can compete better this year and get into the double-elimination round.”

Ten players from last year’s team are on the roster again this year, and one player — James Shifler — is making his third trip to the World Series.

The Nationals posted a 30-10 record this season, including a 24-6 mark for a first-place finish in the Potomac Junior Legion League — their second league title in three years.

The top two teams from that league qualify for the CABA World Series each year. The Jefferson Wildcats from Charles Town, W.Va., also advanced this season.

“We played 40 games from Memorial Day weekend to last Sunday,” Clugston said. “We’re going to be playing six games in three days this weekend, so we try to have that kind of schedule to prepare us for just this kind of tournament.”

The Nationals pull players from all over Washington County, as well as one player from Franklin County, Pa. Clugston said a deep talent pool in the county has helped build and stabilize the program.

With the busy schedule the team keeps, pitching comes at a premium, but the Nationals have no worries. Clugston said the pitching has been solid all season long.

“You need a lot of arms to play that many games and we have them,” Clugston said. “Wyatt Scriever, Blake Harne, Airin Martin, Chase Eichelberger, Cody Reifel, Zack Andrews ... those have been our main arms and they’ve pitched well this year.”

Clugston said the team also has displayed more power this year than last, hitting 28 home runs in those 40 games. Colby Byers and Sloane Bendell lead the team with five apiece.

“We have a lot more power this year, but we play fundamental baseball, too,” Clugston said. “We take care of the baseball. Sometimes the big sticks don’t come through and the bottom of the order picks us up. That’s the name of the game. That’s how it’s done.”

Clugston said there are plans in place to start an 18U team next season, built around the core of 10 17-year-old players on this year’s Nationals squad.

But for now, the focus is on the weekend. The Nationals will play games at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday. The double-elimination segment of the tournament begins Monday.

“The goal is to get past Sunday and take it from there, hopefully get a little deeper than we did last year,” Clugston said. “After going out there and not getting through last year, we would definitely define that as a win for us.”

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