A week ago, the 15-year-old Beckley Babe Ruth team won a state title over Elkins.
Now the 13-year-old team will look to follow suit, with a similar team in its way.
The Beckley Babe Ruth all-stars will open a best-of-three series against Elkins today, looking to claim the same prize as their older counterparts. Game 1 will start at 7 p.m.
Game 2 will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, and Game 3, if necessary, would start at 4 p.m.
“I don’t know much about (Elkins) but from what I’ve heard they’re good,” Beckley head coach Kevin Tolliver said. “When our older group was playing them, they saw them practice and they said they were pretty good.”
Throughout the Beckley Babe Ruth season, there were several teams that played against each other. Now as the state tournament approaches, the coaches for each team all got together to select a team of the best performers throughout the year.
“Coaches from each team all met together and gave the selections they thought would be their best players,” Tolliver said. “We hashed them out at the end to try and put together the best team we could.”
Now Tolliver is trying to keep his team focused, and the closer the tornament gets, the more he feels like he’s been able to do so.
“They’re excited,” Tolliver said.
“Who wouldn’t be? It’s not every day you get to play for a state title. At first when we knew we’d be playing we had to work with them so they wouldn’t get nervous, but it’s really coming along now. We have a really good group of kids. We’ve practiced every day for the last week or so and they’re coming together pretty well.
“They might be from different teams in the league, but a lot of them have played together before. They’re pretty familiar with each other so that’s helped us a lot, too.”
For Tolliver, coaching the team in a state championship is special, but he’s enjoyed the exposure the league has allowed baseball in Beckley this summer. Before this season, the league was struggling and falling to the wayside. Attendance and participation were down, the field was overgrowing with weeds and rocks and the mound was a wreck.
Now the field issues have been addressed and the interest in Babe Ruth reflects it. Signups exceeded the league’s expectations, leading officials to add another team.
“It’s exciting,” Tolliver said. “I think it’ll help bring the interest back to baseball in Beckley. There was interest. The community got involved. Before this even the Little League teams were in decline as far as participation goes. This year I believe Babe Ruth doubled in size.
“I’m happy to be a part of it. I love baseball. I played in the late ‘80s. I think the excitement has grown, especially with the help of the news. Where I work I’ve had guys come out and say they saw it in the paper. And that’s great. Babe Ruth is a feeder program. It’s beneficial. You can see the improvement the kids have made in their fundamentals from the start to now. I think the fact that we’re in the position to play for a championship is a reflection of that.”
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