For the first time in 35 years, the Elkins American Legion baseball team will be storming out onto the field for regional tournament action.
Post 29, which defeated South Charleston for the state championship last Saturday, will tangle with Brooklawn (N.J.) in opening round action of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament on Thursday.
Game time is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Owls Field in West Lawn, Pennsylvania. The team boarded a charter bus for their destination this morning at 8 a.m.
The Elkins American Legion baseball team will open regional competition Thursday in West Lawn, Pennsylvania. Team members include, front row, from left, Silas Gibson, Tyler Shreve, James Martin, Wes Felton, Brennan Dettinger, Chance Price and Garrett Riggleman; second row, from left, Colby Gainer, Issac Riggleman, Ben Lonergan, Jake Wyatt, Doug Smith, Brandon Hamons and James Gainer; back row, from left, general manager Chris George, assistant coach Spencer Webley, Cody Gainer, Scott Fox, Corey Howell, Heath Broughton, Caten Murphy, Trevor Mouser, Christian Scott, Ryne Bonnell, assistant coach Adam Fansler, head coach Joe Ross and assistant coach Lance VanNoy.
"The kids are real excited to be playing in the regional tournament," Elkins general manager Chris George said. "It's good for our guys to get out and see some really good competition in another area of the country. I think they're up for the challenge."
Post 29's first-round foe is no stranger to the postseason. Brooklawn won the Mid-Atlantic tourney last season and advanced to the American Legion World Series.
"Brooklawn has one of the best American Legion programs in the United States," George said. "They've won two national championships and are consistently good each and every year. And its no different this season, because they have a very good team once again."
George said Brooklawn's style of play is comparable to squads that compete in Major League Baseball's National League.
"They're a small ball type team," George said. "They have very good team speed and deep pitching. They're going to hit-and-run on you and try to steal a lot of bases."
Elkins will take a 38-8 record into the tournament. That mark is just one win shy of breaking the all-time record. The 2010 Post 29 team posted 38-10 mark.
"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win a state championship," George said. "Now that we've done that, we've set another goal which is to make it to the World Series."
The winner of the Mid-Atlantic regional will advance to American Legion World Series slated to begin on Aug. 17 in Shelby, North Carolina.
Like any other tournament, George knows that pitching will be key to his teams' success.
"We got to have pitching," George said. "It has to be solid the entire tournament if we want a chance to win it."
Post 29's top hurler this season has been Scott Fox, who will take a 7-1 record into the tourney.
James Gainer, who earned a victory in the state title game, is currently 8-2 on the season. Christian Scott has a perfect 7-0 record on the year.
Trevor Mouser (4-3) will round out Post 29's starting rotation. Mouser won his last start in state tourney semifinal action.
"We're going to have to play strong defense behind out pitchers," George said. "We can't come out and have a bunch of errors like we did in the state championship game."
Fox also leads the team in hitting (.503), home runs (13) and RBIs (61) this season.
Caten Murphy (.476), Cody Gainer (.417) and Colby Gainer (.403) have also been steady at the dish this season for Elkins.
"We really haven't had one of those games this year where everybody in the lineup hits the ball," George said. "Hopefully we can have a couple games like that in the regional."
Spring City (Pa.), Columbia (Md.), Doyletown (Pa.), Flemington (N.J.), New Castle (Del.) and host-team West Lawn make up the remainder of the tourney field.
If Elkins wins its opener on Thursday, it will play at 4 p.m. on Friday. A loss will put Post 29 in Friday's 9:30 a.m.
The tournament championship game is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13 at 1 p.m.