Janesville 14-year-olds to face New Jersey team in opener
The wait is almost over for Janesville’s 14-year-old baseball tournament team.
After winning the Ohio Valley Regional title the first week of August, Janesville’s set to finally open play in the Babe Ruth World Series on Saturday in Glen Allen, Va.
Janesville plays Bridgewater, N.J.—the Middle Atlantic champion—in its National Division pool play opener at noon Saturday. Brazoswood, Texas, Hi-Tower, Minn. and host Glen Allen are the other teams in the National Division. Mims Park, Ala., Beaverton, Ore., Tucson, Ariz., Newton, Mass., and Augusta, Ga., make up the American Division.
After a round-robin schedule of four games for each team in pool play, the top two teams in each division advance to single-elimination competition that begins on Thursday, Aug. 25. The semifinal and championship games are Friday, Aug. 26.
Janesville coach Ron Kobs said his team is itching to take the field.
“These kids just want to play ball,” Kobs said. “It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for them. Some of them are out for football, school is right around the corner and we’ve been doing a lot of fundraising. Keeping them focused has been a challenge.
“When you add in the fact that every kid has to stay with a host family out there, which is a new experience for all of them, there’s a lot of excitement and nervousness.”
Janesville breezed through the district, state and Ohio Valley tournaments. The team is unbeaten this summer, with the majority of wins in double digits.
“Obviously, the level of talent and teams at the World Series is going to be much higher,” Kobs said. “I really like our team, but the teams we will be playing are going to run a little faster, throw a little harder and hit it a little longer.
“We just have to keep playing the way we have been. That means solid pitching, good defense and keep everybody in the lineup hitting.”
Nick Blomgren, the Ohio Valley Regional Tournament MVP, will start Janesville’s opener. The righthander leads the team in hitting with an average over .600 and plays shortstop when he’s not pitching.
“Nick throws hard, but at the World Series, he’s not going to be able to blow it by everybody like he usually does,” Kobs said. “He’s going to have to get ahead in the count and be able to get his off-speed pitches over for strikes.”
Jared Hoffarth is expected to pitch Janesville’s second game Sunday against Brazoswood, Texas, while Alex Faust is the No. 3 pitcher. Logan Coulter, Connor Bowen and Kevin Brandt are also expected to pitch. Janesville enter the World Series with a team ERA under 2.50.
Alex Marro catches for Janesville, while the infield consists of Faust at third, Blomgren at shortstop, McCauley Cox at second and Bowen or Brandt at first.
Charlies Platts is the team’s left fielder, Brennan Olin starts in center, and either Coulter or Brandt will be in right. Brock Welch, J.T. Smithback and Dominic Gruenwald are the team’s key reserves.
“Anybody that I’ve called on during our tournament run has produced, and that includes the guys that don’t always start,” Kobs said. “That’s what has made us so successful. It hasn’t been just one guy, but everybody up and down the lineup.”
Led by Blomgren, Janesville is hitting .365 as a team.
“This team does a little bit of everything and that’s what makes us so tough to beat,” Kobs said. “We’ve got kids that can hit for power, we can run a little bit if we have to and we’ve made the plays defensively.
“The key for us is to win our division in pool play. That means you only have to play two games in the championship bracket. There is a lot of baseball to be played before that can happen, but this team has responded to every challenge they’ve faced this summer.”
The World Series festivities begin Friday in Glen Allen with the Banquet of Champions, followed by the opening ceremonies and ending with a Home Run Derby.
World Series games live on Internet
Those who can’t make the trek to Glen Allen can watch the Janesville 14s on the Internet. Every game of the World Series will be streamed live at www.co.henrico.va.us/rec/tournaments.
Janesville’s first game in pool play is noon on Saturday against Mid-Atlantic champion Bridgewater, N.J.