Jackson eager to get tested as state Junior American Legion tournament host

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Jackson Junior American Legion baseball team hopes to make some noise and gain valuable experience when it hosts the state tournament.

Five squads will gather at Jackson's Legion Field beginning today for the double-elimination event.

Four of the teams are zone champions. Jackson gained entry because it's the host.

"The best thing about it is putting our kids against this type of competition, no matter how it turns out," Jackson coach Bryan Austin said. "It's going to be a great experience for our guys and it's only going to help them get better."

The tournament kicks off today with three games. Jackson plays Blue Springs Fike at 2 p.m., Eureka faces Dixon at 4:30 p.m. and the opening-game winner takes on Jefferson City at 7 p.m.

There will be three more games Friday, including the winners bracket final at 4:30 p.m.

Saturday's schedule features the losers bracket final at 2 p.m. and the championship at 4 p.m. An if-necessary title contest would be played at 2 p.m. Sunday.

"Teams that get to this point are going to be very good," Austin said. "Blue Springs Fike is the defending state champion. Jefferson City is really good.

"Eureka, which came out of our district, is outstanding. The only team I don't know much about is Dixon."

Jackson (21-21) gets a major test right off the bat against Blue Springs Fike.

"They'll be a very tough task for us," Austin said.

Austin said he intentionally set up a rugged schedule for Jackson this year. The state tournament only adds to that.

"Our record is usually better, but we played some really tough teams," he said.

Austin said his 16-man roster features 13 players from Jackson High School, two from Oak Ridge and one from Leopold.

While Jackson isn't considered a tournament favorite, Austin said he's not counting out his squad.

"I tell our guys that we're going to hit. As long as we throw strikes and play defense, I think we're going to compete with anybody," Austin said.

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