Capahas ready for Wichita
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Plaza Tire Capahas manager Jess Bolen believes this could be among the better teams he has taken to the National Baseball Congress World Series.
That's saying something, considering Bolen has directed the Capahas the past 42 years and the tradition-rich squad has made 27 consecutive NBC World Series appearances.
But Bolen also knows how unpredictable things can be during the 42-team tournament in Wichita, Kan.
That's why Bolen is not counting on anything one way or another entering the Capahas' NBC World Series opener.
Plaza Tire will face the El Dorado (Kan.) Broncos Monday at a time that will be determined today.
The Broncos, who won titles in 1996 and 1998, already have a game under their belt in the double-elimination event that started Friday and concludes Aug. 15. They beat the San Antonio Phantoms 8-6 Saturday.
"I've taken teams out there that I thought would really do well and lost the first two games," Bolen said. "I've taken teams out there that I thought might be a little overmatched and ended up doing really well.
"You just never know when you go out there. Every team you play is going to be good. and anything can happen."
That being said, Bolen does expect the Capahas -- who are 27-5 and have won 22 of their last 24 games -- to match up well with most if not all of the squads they might face.
"I think we've got a good ballclub," Bolen said.
Last year's Capahas had an impressive NBC World Series run, going 4-2 and finishing seventh. That showing, along with another strong regular season, helped Plaza Tire earn the No. 8 seed for this year's tournament.
As a result, Plaza Tire advanced directly to the winner's bracket round of 32 and did not have to participate in one of 10 opening-round contests.
"That could help you, as long as you can stay in the winner's bracket," said Bolen, who will be inducted into the NBC Hall of Fame prior to one of Tuesday night's games.
Among the Capahas' big strengths this summer has been their deep and talented pitching staff led by top starters Anthony Maupin and Phillip Riley, both Southeast Missouri State products who were also among last year's key hurlers.
Maupin will start the Capahas' tournament opener. He has been dominant all summer, going 8-0 and allowing just four earned runs in 52 innings.
"He's been great all season," Bolen said.
Maupin, who completed his Southeast eligibility in 2006, is looking forward to getting the ball Monday.
"I'm excited and ready to go," said Maupin, who notched a victory at last year's tournament, pitching eight innings of two-run ball during Plaza Tire's third World Series game. "It's nice I'm going to be the No. 1 guy."
Like Bolen, Maupin believes the Capahas have a golden opportunity to make plenty of noise in Wichita.
"I think we've got some better defense, better offense and more pitching [than last year]," Maupin said. "I think we can do really well."
Riley, who has also been dominant this summer with a 7-1 record and only five earned runs allowed in 39 1/3 innings, will start Plaza Tire's second tournament contest. That would be either Friday if the Capahas win their opener or Wednesday if they lose their opener.
Riley started Plaza Tire's first tournament game a year ago and was brilliant, firing a one-hitter and striking out 12 during a 3-1 victory over Junction City, Kan. Riley, who completed his Southeast eligibility in 2007, went 2-0 in Wichita last season.
"That game he threw against Junction City last year was unbelievable, one of the best I've seen, especially considering it was the heat of the day and he went all nine innings," Bolen said.
Bolen also has plenty of confidence in the Capahas' other pitchers, including the likes of Jason Chavez, James Leigh, Brad LaBruyere, Ryan Poole, Ivan Nails and ace reliever Josh Parham, a left-hander who has not allowed a run in 17 1/3 innings.
"I'd feel good putting a lot of different guys on the mound," said Bolen, who knows it will take plenty of contributions from most of his hurlers if the Capahas are to make a long tournament run.
If the Capahas can win their first two tournament games, their third contest would be a week from today, meaning Bolen could bring Maupin back on plenty of rest.
Offensively, the Capahas are led by right fielder Jerry Hodges, who is batting .405 with four home runs, three triples, nine doubles and 27 runs batted in. Hodges is the lone Plaza Tire player to have appeared in all 32 games.
Bolen is a bit concerned about Plaza Tire's lengthy layoff prior to the tournament. The Capahas have not played a game since July 25.
"I hope we won't be rusty," Bolen said. "We've practiced and taken live batting practice, but it's not the same as playing a game."
Teams are allowed to add up to five players to their roster for the World Series. Bolen has added a pair to his roster, speedy outfielder Jerome McCollum and reliever Michael Mulholland.
McCollum batted .408 at Arkansas-Pine Bluff this year. He was impressive when the Pine Bluff Braves finished second behind the Capahas in last month's NBC Mid-South Regional held in Cape Girardeau.
Mulholland, a left-hander, was 3-2 with one save at Eastern Kentucky this year.
Bolen said he still might add another player before the Capahas open the tournament.