Elk-McKean starts play in Ohio Thursday

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

It will feel like old times for the Elk-McKean (E-M) All-Stars when they hit the road and travel out of state for the All-American Showcase which starts Thursday and is being played at various college and high school fields near Canton, Ohio. Over the past two seasons, the team has traveled 3,402 miles winning Junior and Senior Little League state championships, advancing to the 2018 Junior World Series in Michigan and finishing a game away from a trip to the Senior World Series lWith chances to advance to the Senior World Championship in South Carolina taken away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Manager Casey Zimmerman and Coaches Mike Porter and Tony Allegretto were determined to get the team back on the field this summer. Mission accomplished. Ohio had opened for play and Zimmerman grabbed the chance to get his team back in action. Area fans will be thrilled the games will be broadcast on WDDH, 97.5 FM - The Hound. The first game starts Thursday at 2:30 p.m. JJ Michaels will be in Ohio to provide the play-by-play.
The 17-and under tournament is a round-robin affair with four teams in each pool. Elk-McKean is in pool A and will compete with Andy’s 9ers, Bat Cage Bulldogs, and the Brownlee Lookouts - Gault. Pool B includes Aces Elite – Guscoff, CBF, Pittsburgh Titans, and Premier Ohio – Stolarski. Teams in each pool will play each other before the championship round which will pit Pool A’s top team vs. Pool B’s number two team and vice versa. The two winners will play for the championship. All are single elimination. The third and fourth teams in each pool will also vie for final position.
Elk-McKean is made up of players that have participated for the Little League teams the past two seasons. Included on the squad are Domenic Allegretto, Curtis Barner, Kaden Dennis, Luke Ely, Camron Marciniak, Harley Morris, Reese Novosel, Collin Porter, Dalton Stahli, Caden Smiley, Ethan Wells, Carson Whiteman, Aiden Zimmerman, and Luke Zimmerman. Jefferson Freeburg is injured and unable to play. Josh Mitchell who is a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization is also assisting. E-M warmed up for the tourney with two games vs. the Crosby MudHens in Smethport June 13 and 19. Despite losing 4-1 and 6-5 to the older team made up of athletes from Kane, Smethport, Port Allegany, and Otto-Eldred High Schools (including graduates) the team has held their own and Zimmerman is happy they were able to tune up with the Hens.“Playing in Smethport has been a very good experience for us playing a good, mature, and well-coached team. It helped prepare us and showed some of our weaknesses and where we need to improve before we go to this tournament. We had some focus at practice. All the kids are excited,” he said while talking about the squad’s make-up. “It’s almost like this team is business as usual. They don’t show a ton of emotion unless they’re in the heat of the moment whether in a game or at practice. They give everything they have. They have a good time when they’re around each other. Every game is exciting to them.”
Overall pitching in the games vs. Crosby has been exceptional. The combination of Whiteman, Morris, Luke Zimmerman, Porter, and Marcinak gave up just one hit in the 4-1 loss. Only one of the runs was earned. Aiden Zimmerman returned to the line-up and started last Friday’s rematch with Crosby. Whiteman, Marciniak, and Allegretto also took to the mound in the 6-5 loss. E-M climbed back from a 5-0 deficit in the game to tie it in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, Crosby won in the bottom of the inning. The all-stars have combined to strike out 21 batters in the two games. Whiteman has 10. Seven walks (2 intentional) hurt in the 6-5 loss but overall Zimmerman is happy with what he’s seen from his staff. “Walks are the biggest thing we need to improve. It’s the only thing we're giving teams now to help them win games. We have 14 guys on the team that have pitching experience which puts us in a good spot,” he said. There are no pitch-count rules at this week’s tourney. “We plan on just keeping guys’ arms fresh. Throw an inning or two a game and pull them out and put somebody else in. We have guys we can go to. If somebody’s off we just take them off the hill and put somebody else on,” he added. Hitting has been timely in the two exhibition games. E-M has had 12 hits. “Our hitting is pretty decent. There’s some base running stuff we want to go over,” the coach said. Huge defensive plays in the second Crosby game prevented big rallies.

Zimmerman said a good contingent of fans that have been making the long road trips the past couple years will once again be together in Ohio. “It’s the old traveling crew,” he said. The E-M manager is thrilled that WDDH will be airing the games. “It’s exciting. I’m happy the fans have something to listen to. Everybody missed out on baseball this year. It’s as close as we can get to the things we’ve done in the past. I’m glad they’re able to do it.” The All-American Showcase will give the E-M players a chance to play against talented teams on great fields. “There will be college umpires there and supposedly some scouts. Our kids will get some great exposure and I’m sure it’s going to be competitive baseball,” the Manager said.

Elk-McKean All-American Showcase Games

Thursday, June 25 – vs. Andy’s 9ers – 2:30 p.m. at Walsh University, North Canton.

Friday, June 26 – vs. Bat Cage Bulldogs – 11:15 a.m. at Jackson High School, Massillon.

Saturday, June 27 – vs. Brownlee Lookouts, 2:30 p.m. at Stow High School, Stow.

Sunday, June 28 – TBD

All games carried on WDDH, 97.5 FM.