The Plaza Tire Capahas will carry plenty of momentum into their 24th consecutive National Baseball Congress World Series appearance.
Plaza Tire (24-6) has posted 10 consecutive victories as it prepares to face the Wichita Gators (21-25) at 10 tonight in the opening round of the 46-team, double-elimination event.
"We've been playing pretty good baseball, and hopefully we can keep it going," Capahas manager Jess Bolen said.
The Capahas have had several top-10 finishes in the nation's most prestigious amateur baseball tournament, with a best showing of fourth place in 1988. But they have not done particularly well lately, going 1-2 last year and 0-2 in 2003.
Bolen believes the current Capahas have what it takes to make a solid showing in the 71st annual event that features many of the nation's top college players and lists as alumni a host of current or former major league stars.
"I think we can do well, if we play smart baseball and are really into the game," Bolen said. "The main thing is we have to play good defense. Teams put the ball in play out there and you have to make the plays.
"I think our pitching is strong enough for us to have a good tournament."
Said Plaza Tire's Levi Olson: "We're playing really good, and I think we can make a lot of noise out there, especially if our pitching keeps going like it has been."
Bolen said Jason Chavez will start tonight. Chavez is 3-2 with a 1.03 earned run average, having allowed just 20 hits in 40 2/3 innings.
Win or lose, Bolen said Matt Stroup (5-0, 1.44) will start the Capahas' second tournament game. If they win, they'll play again Tuesday night. If they lose, they won't play until Friday.
The Capahas have a team ERA of 1.70. Other key hurlers have been Jamie McAlister (3-0, 0.52, two no-hitters), Chad Bogenpohl (2-1, 1.11), Ryan Forsyth (3-0, 1.21), Dusty Renfrow (2-1, 1.95), Derek Herbig (3-1, 1.98), Josh Parham (three saves, 2.68), and Lanson Debrock (3-0, 5.76).
Plaza Tire has a .329 batting average, led by Josh Eftink (.357), Lance Seasor (.352), Robby Moore (.351) and Seth Hudson (.347).
Other regulars above .300 are Bryan Ingram (.330), Tom Bolen (.329), Olson (.310) and Bryan Kurt (.304).
Eftink has five of the squad's 10 home runs, while Seasor has two. Seasor leads in RBIs with 30. Ingram has 28, with Bolen, Olson and Kurt all at 25. Olson has a team-high 14 doubles, followed by Ingram with 13 and Seasor with 12.
The Gators, a first-year squad, feature all college players, with a mix of Division I, Division II and junior college.
Despite a losing record, the Gators earned an at-large NBC World Series berth with a strong showing in the Midwest Regional, where they went 3-2 in the 14-team event that features several of the nation's top squads.