Capahas open NBC tournament today

Thursday, August 2, 2007
Capahas manager Jess Bolen hit during fielding drills Tuesday at Capaha Field. (Kit Doyle)

Plaza Tire faces a team with multiple Division I players on the roster.

The Plaza Tire Capahas head into this year's National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., with greater expectations than last year.

But the 2006 Capahas will be a hard act to follow with three straight wins that led to a 13th-place finish in the amateur wood bat baseball tournament that traces its roots back to the 1930s.

To improve its showing, Plaza Tire would be wise to get off on the right foot with an opening win. The Capahas (28-6) get that chance at 1 p.m. today against the Junction City (Kan.) Generals at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

Phillip Riley, who finished his eligibility at Southeast Missouri State this past spring, will get the start in today's game. The Generals already have one tournament win under their belt with a 6-1 victory Monday against the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons.

Jamie McAlister took batting practice with the Plaza Tire Capahas at Capaha Field on Tuesday. (Kit Doyle)

Capahas manager Jess Bolen, in his 41st season as manager with a team at the NBC World Series for the 26th straight year, knows what the play-and-wait schedule is like. In the 42-team double-elimination event that includes games at all hours of the day and night, the Capahas have had their share of lag time over the years.

"Last year, we played one game, and then we played three days later," Bolen said. "We will not have as much time off this year, which is the way I like it. I'd like to play everyday until you lose out or win the whole thing."

The tournament includes 10 play-in games that were played Sunday through Tuesday. The round of 32 concludes Saturday, when the round of 16 also begins.

Plaza Tire was scheduled to play among the last half of the first-round games in a prime-time game with a Kansas team, which had Bolen thinking thousands might be in attendance. But after some juggling Wednesday, the Capahas have been moved to a 1 p.m. start time.

"It will be the heat of the day," Bolen said. "I told them to just pencil us in any time and we'll be there."

Riley, who pitched briefly Sunday for the first time since getting hit by a line drive on his pitching elbow during the NBC Mid-South Regional, looks forward to his first start in NBC World Series play.

"It's going to be great for me and for the team to get some exposure," Riley said. "I'm going to go out there and throw the way I have all season. I'll read the hitters and challenge them with my best stuff."

"If he's right," Bolen said, "we're in business."

Riley will be a first-timer to Wichita, as will fellow Southeast products Asif Shah and Omar Padilla.

"A lot of the players this year have never been there before," Bolen said. "They won't be too nervous because they've played in front of big crowds before."

Bolen's son, outfielder Tom Bolen, won't make the trip this year.

The Capahas expect to use Jason Chavez and Anthony Maupin in the tournament rotation following Riley. Shah, Dustin Pritchett and Zach Johnson likely will be in the outfield, with Zach Blemker at first, Padilla at second, Jordan Payne at shortstop, Darryl Graham at third and Levi Olson behind the plate.

Bolen will have about 20 players on hand, including three newcomers for the tournament. Andrew Graham, Darryl's brother and also a former Southeast player, will be available as a pitcher and defensive replacement; Jerry Hodges, who played one game with the team in Wichita last year before having to return home, will be used primarily as a designated hitter; and pitcher Adam Patterson, who had 14 saves this spring for Dyersburg (Tenn.) State Community College and is headed to West Alabama next year.

Plaza Tire's opening opponent, the Junction City Generals, have their own splashy Web site (www.junctioncitygenerals.com) and a roster that includes players from Kansas State, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee State as well as a number of other four-year schools and junior colleges.

"The've got 'em from everywhere," Bolen said. "It's an all-college team with 10 or 12 Division I players so you know they'll be decent."

Junction City had a complete-game pitching performance in the opener from Ben Percival.

Plaza Tire's bats, meanwhile, scored just three runs in a doubleheader split Sunday.

"I was really disappointed with our hitting," Bolen said. "We were rusty from having not played for a week, and you could tell we weren't swinging the bats very well."

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