Marion Center is ready to roll into the Pennsylvania American Legion Western Region baseball tournament, which began today in Punxsutawney.
The Indiana County champions will face a different format than the American Legion used in the past for its postseason tournaments. Rather than playing in an eight-team, double-elimination bracket, teams will play a round-robin format that guarantees each three games scheduled on consecutive days.
After pool play, the top two teams will square off for the championship, and the second-place teams will square off for third place. Three teams advance to the state tournament.
“I don’t mind it,” Marion Center manager Josh Conner said. “I think it’s more in line with travel ball. Kids are more used to that type of format.”
Marion Center takes on Connellsville, the Westmoreland County runner-up, in its opening game at 4 p.m. today. Marion Center plays Millcreek, the third-place team out of the Northwest, on Saturday morning, and Conneaut, the Northwest champion, on Sunday afternoon.
The championship and consolation rounds are Monday.
“We’re all set. Everybody is ready to play some baseball,” Conner said.
Pretournament scouting isn’t an exact science at this level, so Conner figures his team just has to play its game.
“We’ve looked at a couple teams in the field,” he said. “I know (Connellsville) will bunt up and down the order — that’s what I’ve heard — but to make it to this point, you’ve got to have a pretty solid team.”
Marion Center, which will send Braden Reichenbach to the mound for the opener, made it to this point by knocking off Armstrong in a two-game sweep in the county semifinals and then topping S.W. Jack, two games to one, in the championship series. Marion Center dropped the opener 10-6, pulled out a 4-3 win in the second game and finished off the series with a dominant 11-1 win.
“I like our chances,” Conner said. “That’s not saying anything about the other teams, I just think we ended the season on a very hot note. Our bats came alive at the right time, and the pitching has been fantastic. So if we continue to roll like that, we’ll do well. It should be fun, and the kids are really looking forward to it.”