Keeping ‘Pace’

Published 5:45 pm Thursday, July 23, 2009

Troy University’s Riddle-Pace Field will play host to an American Legion baseball tournament yet again this weekend, but this time it will be the state championship tournament for the senior division.

American Legion baseball Director Frank Hannah said this weekend’s tournament will feature more experienced players than were at last weekend’s junior tournament.

“All of the players at the senior level have either played a year of college baseball or are getting ready to start playing college baseball in the spring,” Hannah said.

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The higher talent level of the senior division also contributes to a more competitive atmosphere at the senior tournament, among other differences.

“This level is a lot more competitive,” Hannah said. “There’s a lot more pitching depth ,and there’s a lot more team speed. I definitely think you’ll see a faster pace of play.”

Unlike last weekend’s junior tournament, which had eight teams broken down into two pools of four teams each for round robin play, the senior tournament will be a more traditional four-team double-elimination tournament.

The four teams vying for a state title and the right to advance to the Southeast regional in Sumter, South Carolina will be Tuscaloosa Post 34, Florence Post 11, Dothan Post 12 and West Alabama Post 29.

Dothan Post 12 and Tuscaloosa Post 34 are the favorites coming in to the tournament and are traditional rivals.

The two teams have combined to win nine of the last 10 state championships, with Tuscaloosa winning five of the last six.

Hannah said the tournament title should be taken home by one of those two teams.

“Dothan’s got an excellent ball club, but so does Tuscaloosa,” Hannah said. “Those two teams are pretty even, and I think it will come down to which of those two teams can hit the ball the best. But, anything could happen.”

While Dothan and Tuscaloosa may be the favorites, the other two teams in the tournament will look to make some noise at the state tournament and possibly bring home a state title themselves.

Florence Post 11 will need to rely on its experience in order to have a chance.

“Florence has a real good team,” Hannah said. “They’ve got several players who have college experience. They’re an excellent team that plays great defense. They’ve played well to get here, and I expect that to continue at the tournament.”

West Alabama, meanwhile, will try to overcome its lack of experience.

“West Alabama is the youngest team that will be at this tournament,” Hannah said. “They probably don’t have quite as much raw talent as the other three teams in the tournament, but they’re scrappy. They’ve had to play real well to make it this far, and I expect that to continue on Friday. They’ll put up a fight no matter who they play.”

No matter who winds up taking home the state title, Hannah said baseball fans should come out and see what the tournament has to offer.

“Everybody that comes out will certainly see some excellent baseball,” Hannah said. “Anybody who is a fan of the game will not be disappointed this weekend.”

Tournament play will open Friday with Tuscaloosa taking on Florence at 4 p.m., followed by Dothan against West Alabama at 7:30 p.m.