The Plaza Tire Capahas didn't need the National Baseball Congregss Mid-South Regional title to get to the NBC World Series the past two seasons, but that doesn't mean Capahas manager Jess Bolen won't be fighting to recapture the title this weekend.
"We'd love to win the title, but going in Tradewater's got to be the team to beat," Bolen said.
Last year with a four-team field, the Capahas dropped a 7-0 decision to the Tradewater (Ky.) Pirates in the regional finals. Plaza Tire lost to Springfield (Mo.) in a six-team field two years ago.
The same four squads as last year -- the Capahas, Tradewater, Pine Bluff (Ark.) and the Cape Girardeau Riverdogs -- will converge on Cape Girardeau's Capaha Field this week.
The tournament will begin Friday with a pair of games. Tradewater will play the Riverdogs at 4:30 p.m. and the Capahas will play Pine Bluff at 8. The tournament continues Saturday afternoon with games at 1, 4 and 8:30. The championship round begins 1 p.m. Sunday.
"Any one of the teams in this tournament can win it, I really believe that," Bolen said.
The Capahas enter the tournament with a 16-5 record after an 10-1 victory against Tradewater on Wednesday. Much of Plaza Tire's success can be traced to its pitching staff, which has been strong all season.
Bolen said he will start Jason Chavez in the tournament opener, with Chavez's Southern Illinois teammate Josh Joiner throwing in the second game.
"We do have a good pitching staff, no doubt about that," Bolen said.
The double-elimination tournament will by played with wooden bats. The winner of the tournament automatically qualfies for the NBC World Series.
Bolen said counting on an at-large berth into the World Series is a risky proposition.
"They've opened up so many premier leagues, those champions are automatically given a berth," he said. "There are so many last year they said they gave out one berth. I'd hate to think that's what I have to count on to go."