Will the Plaza Tire Capahas, for the first time in three years, finally have some real competition in the National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional?
We'll soon find out as the annual tournament will be played Friday through Sunday at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau.
The Capahas have decimated the opposition over the past two years, winning by combined scores of 22-6 in 2006 and 40-4 in 2005.
On paper, this season's edition of the NBC World Series qualifier doesn't appear much more daunting.
Joining the Capahas in the four-team field will be the other local squad, the Charleston Riverdogs, along with the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Braves and a team from Springfield, Mo., believed to be the Generals' squad that competed last year.
The Capahas have won 30 of 31 all-time meetings against the Riverdogs, most of them lopsided, with a few competitive games thrown in.
Pine Bluff has been a perennial NBC Mid-South Regional participant, but has rarely made any kind of noise and up until a few summers ago had never won a tournament game.
The Generals participated in the tournament for the first time in 2006 and, primarily consisting of players barely removed from high school, hardly made a dent.
So all signs point to a third straight regional title for the Capahas, who appear to have one of their more talented teams in recent years and could be primed for a strong showing at the NBC World Series.
First, however, the Capahas must get to Wichita, Kan., where they have finished their season in the prestigious event the past 25 years.
Only winning a regional title guarantees Plaza Tire an NBC World Series berth.
Smart money says the Capahas will get the job done -- but, as the old saying goes, that's why they play the games.
We'll see what happens beginning Friday.
More information on the NBC Mid-South Regional -- which the Capahas have hosted since 1991 -- will appear in the Southeast Missourian later in the week.
But Friday's first-round matchups will pit the Riverdogs against Pine Bluff at 4 p.m. and the Capahas against Springfield at about 7:30 p.m.
There will be three games Saturday, with the championship set for Sunday.
That was an interesting recent blog post by my good buddy Mark Unterreiner regarding Southeast Missouri State running back Elton Peterson being granted one more year of eligibility.
Peterson -- who was thought to have completed his eligibility in 2006 -- saw virtually no action as a freshman in 2003, carrying the ball just one time, so the university petitioned the NCAA and Peterson will apparently be allowed to play another season.
While Peterson -- who is generously listed as standing 5-foot-6 -- has never been a prime-time player for the Redhawks, I agree with Mark in that he's a heck of a guy and fun to watch.
And Peterson, who rushed for just 22 yards last year but was a solid kick returner, will at least improve the depth of a backfield that doesn't have a whole lot of bodies right now.
Southeast returns top rusher Tim Holloman, but second-leading rusher John Radney completed his eligibility and No. 3 rusher Tony Anderson -- who tied for the team touchdown lead with six -- left the program following the season.
By the way, I also appreciate Mark's flattering comments about me. The feeling is mutual. Mark, you are also the man.
I was saddened to learn of the recent death of former Southeast volleyball player Susie Thompson, who lost a battle with cancer at age 32.
Thompson was a part of four Ohio Valley Conference championship teams from 1993 through 1996, and she still ranks fifth on the school's Division I list for career service aces with 165.
What I remember most about Thompson, who had remained in the area after graduating from Southeast in 1997, was her bubbly, outgoing personality.
My condolences go out to her family and friends.
Southeast is in the process of setting up a memorial volleyball scholarship in Thompson's name.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to help get the scholarship started should call Southeast associate athletic director Cindy Gannon -- who coached Southeast volleyball when Thompson played -- at 651-2997.
I had a great conversation a few days ago with Advance High School graduate and current minor league baseball player Garrett Broshuis.
Many of you probably read the article I wrote on Broshuis, who is pitching well this year -- but only had a 2-9 record entering the weekend -- for Connecticut of the Class AA Eastern League.
I followed his sensational high school baseball and basketball career, but didn't get to know him well until he played for the Cape Girardeau American Legion baseball team.
What a class act he and his family are.
Not only was Broshuis a standout athlete at both Advance and the University of Missouri, he was a brilliant student all the way through, earning his degree from MU with a 3.92 GPA.
Broshuis, in his fourth professional season after being drafted in the fifth round by the San Francisco Giants, is certainly the kind of young man anybody would root for -- which I am definitely doing as I hope he reaches the major leagues.
Another professional baseball player with local ties who has his sights set on the big leagues is former Southeast star Justin Christian.
Christian, in his fifth pro season, was recently promoted to Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pa., an affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Entering the weekend, the speedy Christian was batting .300 (15 for 50) for Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He had stolen four bases without being caught.
Christian started the season with Class AA Trenton, N.J. -- he had 18 stolen bases in 22 attempts -- after he led the Eastern League and set a Trenton team record last year with 68 steals.
An outfielder now, Christian played second base at Southeast, where he spent just one season (2003) after transferring from Auburn.
But what a big year that was for Christian as he batted .376 and earned all-American honors.
Christian, who wasn't even drafted, began his pro career in the independent Frontier League in 2003 before being signed by the Yankees in 2004.
Although I only knew Christian for the one season he played at Southeast, I remember him as friendly and cordial, always willing to answer questions no matter the outcome of the game.
Here's hoping he is able to take that final step to the majors.
Let me be the latest person to congratulate Southeast English professor Dr. Robert Hamblin on the recent publication of his sports poetry book.
Dr. Hamblin is without a doubt one of the area's biggest sports enthusiasts, and I might add he's a darn good basketball player in his own right.
Former Southeast linebacker Seth Harrell, who completed his eligibility with the Redhawks in 2006, will be an assistant football coach at Sikeston High School this year.
Harrell, a Jackson native, joins the staff of first-year Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs -- also a Jackson native.
Three high school seniors-to-be from the region are rated among the top 20 college football prospects according to Rivals.com.
North County linebacker Will Compton is ranked third, with Caruthersville defensive back Rashad Fields No. 15 and Hayti offensive lineman William Cooper No. 20.
Well, what do you think, are the Cardinals still realistically in the National League Central Division race?
Personally, I can't make up my mind.
On the one hand, I don't know that they'll ever be able to put together the kind of consistent baseball that will make them a serious contender.
On the other hand, as mediocre as the division appears to be, and if the Cardinals ever get close to being healthy ... who knows?
I don't know about you, but I was glued to the TV set Wednesday morning watching the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on ESPN.
Anybody that can wolf down more than 60 hot dogs in 12 minutes deserves plenty of attention.
Now, as for whether we should consider this a sport -- well, that's open for considerable debate.
But sport or not, it's great entertainment.
Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.