The road to Williamsport, Pa., site of the Little League World Series, runs through Mt. Carmel this year.
Hosting the 12-year-old District 1 tournament for the first time in several years this week at Ed Walter Park, Mt. Carmel coaches are hopeful that home field advantage will springboard the all-star team, which advanced all the way to the state tournament level last year as 11-year-olds.
“Last year’s experience will do nothing but help them, making it to state last year,” said Mt. Carmel coach Dave Stoneberger. “These boys know what it takes to win. They’re definitely capable.”
The double-elimination tournament opens Tuesday at 6 p.m. Lawrence Co. faces Olney. Mt. Carmel plays the winner on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
After an elimination game Thursday pitting Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s losers, the championship round begins Friday, with the if necessary game slated for Saturday.
The winner advances to the Sectional 1 tourney in Tuscola, Ill.
Last year’s 11s took both the district and sectional flags before heading to Chicago to play in the state tournament.
Stoneberger was informed Monday morning that Salem has dropped out of the tourney, which reduced the field to its’ current three.
Mt. Carmel 12s last advanced to the state tourney level in 2006.
Those who have watched just a few Major League Games this year can guess the strong suit of this year’s team.
“Offensively, from top to bottom, all 13 of our kids can hit,” said Stoneberger of his team known for the long ball, paced by Bret Doan’s 12 home runs during Major League play.
“Our pitching is solid and our defense is pretty good too.”
Stoneberger is thankful for having a deep pitching staff, because it is necessary in tournament play.
“In these tournaments, you get so many games in such a short period of time, you’ve got to have a lot of pitchers,” said Stoneberger, noting the same Little League pitching rules are in effect that are used in the regular season, which requires four days of rest after 66 pitches, with a game cap of 85 pitches.
Mt. Carmel was originally slated to play Salem before the Marion Co. team dropped from the tourney. Last year’s 11-year-old district tourney was played there.
There are three 11-year-olds on the 13-player roster, according to Stoneberger, who serves as all-star coach after his Anderson Bros. team won the Major League regular-season championship.
He will be assisted by Todd Gill and Craig Halbig.
The ballpark concession stand, operated by Rod Rodriguez, will be open each night.