Hamilton West Side’s first game in the Ohio Little League 12-year-old baseball tournament will be against the host team.
Maumee opened the tournament Saturday with an 11-1, four-inning victory over Wheelersburg and will meet West Side at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Park’s Robert S. Hoag Field.
“They’re a good, fundamental team,” Hamilton coach Ken Coomer said after watching Maumee’s win. “They hit the ball. Decent size. The game was kind of determined early, so I didn’t really get to see much after the second inning. But we’re still going in with confidence and feeling we can take care of business.”
Coomer said West Side, winner of nine of the last 11 state 12-year-old championships, will start either Braedyn Moore or Lake Cundiff on the mound.
“We’re leaning toward Moore,” Coomer said. “We’ll probably warm both up and see if we get a good feel one way or the other.”
Maumee is a formidable opponent, having finished ahead of Hamilton in last year’s 11-year-old state tourney. Coomer said Maumee’s offensive approach reminds him of Lebanon, the District 9 runner-up.
“They’re a Lebanon-type team as far as 1 through 9 being aggressive with the bats,” Coomer said. “They’re not up there to walk. They’re up there to swing the bat.”
West Side outscored its four district opponents 50-2 and had a strong week of practice, according to Coomer.
“Our kids seem comfortable,” he said. “Maumee’s kids get to sleep in their own beds, but sometimes that can be a disadvantage when you’re at home and laying around the house. Being out of town, we’re going to get up and get the blood flowing early.”
Maumee has all but one player back from last year’s 11-year-old squad and had little trouble with Wheelersburg Saturday while throwing two pitchers, Colby VanDusen (35 pitches) and Danny Hazard (nine pitches).
VanDusen can’t throw against West Side because of pitch-count rules. Maumee coach L.J. Archambeau said his starter will come from a group of four right-handers: Michael Dembski, Cole Graetz, Zac Harris and Hazard.
“We’ve got no one that throws extremely hard,” Archambeau said. “We’ve got a couple kids that can mix and spin it a little bit, but we’ve got a lot of the same players, a lot of interchangeable parts.”
Archambeau said Dembski, who plays shortstop, is Maumee’s tone-setter. The home team doesn’t hit a lot of long balls — first baseman Peyton Wegman had one homer in Saturday’s triumph.
“We’re more base hits and moving station to station than a power-hitting team,” Archambeau said. “I would say we’re more baseball smart. We don’t have a superstar per se. We’ve got a lot of guys that like to compete and play baseball.”
Archambeau said he respects the Hamilton program. He’s faced West Side several times during his Little League coaching tenure.
“You never count West Side out. You’re short-sighted if you do that,” Archambeau said. “Hamilton is a great baseball factory. You’ve got kids that like to compete and grind and live and eat and breathe baseball. I don’t know if we’re to that point yet, but we try to emulate that.”
Hosting the state tournament is a big job for the Maumee folks, and Archambeau admitted it’s a hectic time. Maumee’s only state 12-year-old title came in 1966.
“You’ve got a million things to do when you’re hosting it at your place, but you want everybody to have a good experience, first and foremost the kids,” he said. “We want to emulate what we had at Boardman last year and what we had at Hamilton two years ago to make it a great experience for Little League baseball.”