MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon 16- to 18-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars begin their journey through the Babe Ruth World Series tonight, and despite the tough competition, the All-Stars are not backing down from their goal of winning it all.
The Babe Ruth World Series, held at the Babe Ruth League Complex in Newark, is composed of 10 teams playing a Pool Play format. The top three in each division — the American and the National — advance to bracket play next week.
Mount Vernon was placed in the National Division along with the champions from New England (Middlesex, Mass.), Southwest (Weimar, Texas), Ohio Valley (Cross Plains, Wis.) and Pacific Northwest (Portland, Ore.). Making up the American Division are the host Licking County Athletics, and champions from each of the following regions: Middle Atlantic (Bloomfield, N.J.), Midwest Plains (Ottumwa, Iowa), Southeast (Gulf Coast, Ala.) and Pacific Southwest (Watsonville, Calif.).
Mount Vernon’s first game, to be played at 7:30 tonight, will be against the Southwest champions.
“This is going to be pretty tough,” said All-Star Nate Taylor. “We have four games to play against four teams we know nothing about, but they don’t know anything about us either. We’re just going to play our game, and hopefully, win.”
For the Mount Vernon All-Stars, this will be their first-ever appearance past the state level. Mount Vernon beat Springfield in a best-of-3 state tournament last month to earn the automatic bid to the world series.
“This is going to be a great experience,” said All-Star Hunter Huvler. “We came together after our Babe Ruth season, and some of us knew each other and what we are capable of. Beating Springfield was great; it showed what we can do.”
Coming together as a team hasn’t been easy for Mount Vernon. Players represent many different communities, including Mount Vernon, Fredericktown, East Knox and Newark.
“This is a lot different,” East Knox graduate Mike Moreland said. “There are a lot of guys (on the team) that I didn’t know before, but I had played against. We have to come together, and we’ve got a bunch of different styles. ... A lot of us played on the 2008 Junior American Legion team that won state, so we are familiar with each other. With all of our scrimmages and practices we’ve had, it is coming along.”
“This is a great opportunity,” said All-Star Cory Carpenter. “I’ve never been past the state level, so I feel very lucky.”
Starting off against a team from Weimar, Texas, will be difficult for the Mount Vernon squad. Other than the state tournament, Mount Vernon has played just four other scrimmages as a team.
“This has been a challenge because we’ve only had seven games together, and we are from like five or six different schools,” said Taylor. “We have to try and come together and put a couple of good weeks together.”
“I think we have a lot of confidence in each other,” said Moreland. “No matter whether you are on the bench or starting, everyone believes in each other.”
When the All-Stars take the field tonight, they know what will be on the line. They are also aware that they have four pool play games to show what they are made of.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself every time I play; I want to get the win,” said Moreland. “I’m sure we will be nervous at the beginning, but we’ve got to get over it and play ball.”
“Everybody is going to be nervous; we just don’t want to show it,” Huvler said. “We have great confidence in each other. Most of us came from winning high school teams, so we know what to do. We are just trying to be as confident as we can. ... This team is very talented. If we weren’t talented, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
After tonight’s game, Mount Vernon will face the Ohio Valley champion Cross Plains, Wis. on Thursday at 7 p.m. Then, they will take on New England champion Middlesex, Mass., on Friday night at 7. They round up Pool Play on Saturday against Pacific Northwest champion Portland, Ore., at 7:30 p.m. Bracket play will then begin on Tuesday.
“We’ve got a lot of talent,” said All-Star Luke Wilson. “We’ve got a pretty good lineup; everybody just has to do their job. Baseball is a team sport, and not one guy on the mound can carry a team all seven innings. You can’t expect that. You’ve got to come out hitting every game; everybody has got to be ready to play.”
“I feel we have what it takes to win,” said Huvler. “It is all about the little things. I think when we step out on that field, we’ll be ready. ... We only get four chances to play teams from all over the country, so this is a once in a lifetime chance. We might as well live it up while we can.”
The All-Stars hope to make the most of their opportunity. For many, this will be the end of the line on the baseball diamond.
“We’ve got a good team; I think we have a chance,” said Wilson. “We all just want to win. We have good team chemistry, and everybody has a good head on their shoulders.
“For a lot of guys (on this team), this is their last chance to play baseball. This is the World Series, so who doesn’t want to compete? If we play our game, I think we can be successful. I think there are going to be a lot of low-scoring games, so our defense will be important.”
Carpenter said, “It will be a test for us. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time. ... We have the talent if everyone tries 100 percent.”
“We can make some noise, but we’ve got to play our game,” Taylor said. “Otherwise, we could get beat too. ... We definitely have the talent to do it. It is all a mind game now. ... We’ve been practicing every day to get ready for this.”
For a complete schedule of the Babe Ruth World Series, go online to baberuthonline.com/home/worldseries/world_br1618.asp.