Playing in the Beast meaningful to O.V. kids

WHEELING – The Beast of the East attracts teams from all over the East Coast to the Ohio Valley for four days of baseball.

While for some of the teams that come from New York, Pennsylvania and Canada, it’s just another tournament on the schedule.

That’s not quite the same for the area teams. For them, the Beast of the East is a big deal and something they want to play in and look forward to.

And that’s not just in the older divisions, such as 19U where many of the high school-aged kids play.

It might be even be a bigger deal for the area baseball youngsters in the lower divisions, such as 14U.

“The kids want to play in this event,” East Ohio head coach John Scott said after a game Saturday morning against the Ohio Valley Mudcats at the 35th Street Field. “They look forward to it.”

The Mudcats, which prevailed in the wild game, 19-13, are a travel team that’s actually comprised primarily of 13U players, who are playing up a division.

Still, though, it’s all about the chance to play close to home and against top-shelf competition.

“We always welcome playing in the Beast because it’s a chance to play at home,” Mudcats’ head coach Eric Petho, a former West Virginia University catcher, said.

The Mudcats, which are comprised of players from East Ohio and West Virginia, enjoy the Beast even moreso because of games against some other area teams that feature players they’ve battled against as they’ve grown up.

“We see more local teams today, so we have some buddies on the other teams,” Petho said. “It’s always nice to play against familiar faces. The Beast generates a lot of excitement and attention, so it’s a chance for the guys in our communities to come see the games, too.”

The East Ohio squad just joined forces some two weeks ago and had very few practices together.

Players on the team from all over Belmont County and southern Jefferson County, including Martins Ferry, Bridgeport, Bellaire, Union Local and Tri-Town.

The East Ohio squad has struggled to find victories in the tournament after opening with a win on Thursday. But, according to Scott, the bigger picture is what he keeps focused on.

“The way I look at it is if we go out and do the best we can, I am happy with that,” Scott said. “If we go out, play hard, make the plays and hit, that’s what I expect of them. I hope this gets us tuned up so we can go to the sectional tournament and we can go as far as we can.”

Next weekend, the East Ohio squad begins its official postseason when it treks to Boardman, which is near Youngstown, to play in the 14-year-old sectionals.

“I like the competition and seeing teams from other states,” Scott said. “It’s good to get different looks. Because you get so used to seeing the same kids from the same towns that you’ve played against growing up.”

Similar to the teams in the older divisions, the grind of the tournament on the pitching staff is sometimes tough.

“If you don’t have a lot of pitching, you’re going to be hurting,” Scott said. “I think all but two of the guys on our team can pitch and we lost two younger kids who left to play in a Pony League sectional that could have been pitchers, so that hurt.”

Just because the Mudcats are a travel team, the grind of the Beast isn’t like most of the tournaments they play during the season.

“This is physically demanding and taxing on the kids,” Petho said. “To play six pool games and then into a bracket tournament … it’s tough. We have to try to put our roster together so that every guy can give us some innings.”

For both teams, which learned their destination for today’s games late Saturday night, today is just a see what happens approach.

“I think every team, at this point, is just kind of leaning on the ropes a little bit,” Petho continued.