MARTINS FERRY - Some of the teams that come to the Ohio Valley for the annual Edgar Martin Beast of the Beast Baseball Tournament arrive with legitimate hopes of playing for the championship on Sunday afternoon.
Others, meanwhile, are looking to gain their players experience against top-shelf competition to make them better players when the high school season rolls around in late March.
Consider Martins Ferry in the latter group.
MARTINS FERRY’S Garrett Trudo connects on a base hit during Friday afternoon’s game in the Beast of the East. The Purple Riders lost both of their games on Friday and will return to action today on their home diamond for another pair of games. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
After suffering two more losses Friday on their home diamond high atop the Purple City, the Purple Riders are now 0-4, but head coach Anthony Reasbeck spent most of his post-game speech trying to make sure his players don't get discouraged.
"You try not to get caught up in (the losses), but you do," Reasbeck said. "We're doing this for an opportunity to get better. I told the guys before the first game (on Thursday), 'we're not going to win this tournament,' and they know it."
Many of the players on the Purple Riders' squad this weekend will be in their lineup when the season begins next spring.
Ferry had a strong 2014 campaign, advancing to the sectional final before dropping a heart breaker in extra innings to Fort Frye. It also played in the OVAC Class 4A championship game, dropping another nailbiter to Steubenville.
"We're playing in this so when you get to an OVAC championship game or in the tournament, it's not too big (of a moment) for you," Reasbeck said. "Anyone can play down, but we want to continually play up because when you see best and get back to playing high school teams, you're not surprised by anything."
Reasbeck stressed he wasn't disrespecting local teams, but the Beast of the East provides many travel ball teams from greater metropolitan areas. For instance, Ferry fell, 12-2, in five innings to the Mongoose Baseball Squad, which is based in Pittsburgh.
"The opportunity to get better is there ... maybe we did, maybe we're didn't, I don't know," Reasbeck said. "We've found some holes that we'll need to patch up and we hopefully have found a few guys who can help us."
When preparing to put a team in the Beast of East, the biggest issue that faces many of the area teams is pitching.
With two games a day, for four days, there's not much room for error, meaning a bullpen is basically non existent. Teams must have innings eaters.
"Right from the start, you need eight (pitchers)," Reasbeck said. "We had three pitchers, basically, during the regular season, so there's not a time when you need as much pitching as this requires, so we're doing the best we can there."
Pitching aside, Reasbeck knows his club has to hit and field the ball better as the weekend plays out.
"Regardless of the pitching, you still have to catch the ball when it's put in play and you have to hit the ball," Reasbeck continued. "We're trying to get better both offensively and defensively."
Against Mongoose, Ferry had just two singles. Chase Truex and Garrett Trudo produced those. Marcus Sutton drove in a run on a groundout.
Trudo was on base all three times he batted in the game and scored both of the Purple's runs.
During Thursday's action, Ferry dropped decisions to Steel City Predators and the Long Island Mariners. They opened Friday's action at 8 a.m. and dropped a 9-1 verdict to Western PA. Slurve.
"We've pretty much battled the whole tournament," Reasbeck said. "I just don't like when you miss opportunities to compete and get better, and I thought we missed a chance (against Mongoose) to compete and get better. The first three we didn't miss the chance."
The Riders are back in action this morning on their home diamond against Gahanna and then take on Cadiz Post 34 at 3:30 p.m.
Regardless of today and Sunday's outcomes, the sights are set on next season for Ferry.
"Trust me, I'd trade a Beast of the East championship for an OVAC championship any day of the week," Reasbeck said. "I'd much rather win an OVAC than a Beast of the East."
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com