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Nationals, Americans battle for berth in Ohio Valley Regional

by Shawn Yonker

SPORTS WRITER

The Harrison County National and Harrison County American 15-year-old Babe Ruth all-star teams meet for the right to play host to the Ohio Valley Regional at Frank Loria Memorial Field tonight at 7 p.m.

The winning team gets an automatic bid to the regional, while the loser will be forced to play its way through district and state tournaments to reach the regional.

One game and in is a new concept for these two teams, since the last time Clarksburg hosted the regional was over 20 years ago, but they are no stranger to one another.

"Usually we both have to go through the district and we meet there," Nationals coach Gooch Holbert said. "It's always one of the toughest games. There is always good competition. The kids like playing each other because they all know each other from school and from league play."

Most of players on both teams have also seen each other for the past two years as 13-year-olds and again as 14-year-olds.

"My team wants to beat the Nationals," Americans coach Joe Suarez said. "This group that I have right now, I have coached most of them the last two years. They lost both times to the Nationals so I think they would really like to win this game, but they know if they don't that of course they aren't out of it. They would start over Wednesday, but I'm sure they are going into the game hoping they can win."

Holbert believes his team is ready, too, practicing since tryouts on Wednesday.

"Baseball is a team sport, but there is a lot of individual activity involved," Holbert said. "So we don't really have to work so much on team timing. I am just trying to get all the kids on the same page for certain situations."

Danny Sowers will be the Nationals starting pitcher, while Brandon Brumage and Brian Kemmerer could possibly see action in relief.

"Danny pitched for me during the regular season," Holbert said. "He has real good velocity, a good curveball and mixes his pitches well."

The rest of the Nationals starters in their probable batting order are: Scotty Gonzalez, center field, Brumage, second base, Sowers, pitcher, Chris Lake, shortstop, Bobby Oliverio, right field, Kemmerer, third base, Chad Mulloly, catcher, Eric Moccia, first base and John Cole, left field.

"I think we are a pretty good hitting team," Holbert said. "We have speed and several good pitchers. If we hit we'll be tough to beat, but you never know."

Josh Turner will get the start for the Americans. Levi Maxwell and Aaron Wolfe, part of a deep pitching staff, could see time on the mound.

Maxwell, Heath Knotts and Zak Bart will be manning the outfield for the Americans, and Matt Johnson will most likely be behind the plate.

The rest of the infield will be: Jason Richardson, first base, Kyle Hurst, second base, Wolfe, shortstop and Josh Hamilton, third base.

Admission for the contest is $2 for adults and $1 for students.

Also in action tonight, the Harrison County National 13-year olds play in the District 2 tournament at Ritchie County High School. The Nationals play Wes-Mon at 6 p.m.

Sports writer Shawn Yonker can be reached at 626-1444.

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