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Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Hitters must adjust to wood

Raiders put aluminum away for Ice tournament

June 24, 2004

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Perhaps the sweetest sound in sports -- and one that's all too rare in amateur baseball -- will be plentiful this weekend at Hoglund Ballpark.

For four days, the ping of the aluminum bats will be set aside, replaced by the all-natural crack of the wood sticks. The Al Ice Memorial Wood Bat Classic starts today with four games and continues through Sunday.

Swinging the wood bats isn't like the less-traditional aluminum clubs. The sweet spots can seem microscopic on the lumber, and the weight of the bats is a noticeable adjustment that has to be made.

Home runs, though possible, aren't nearly as likely this weekend as with any other American Legion game.

If pitchers are smart, they'll be jamming hitters with inside heat, then ducking as broken bats come flying their way.

"The outfield will definitely be playing in a little bit," Lawrence Raiders outfielder Ryan Engel said.

The Raiders will serve as host of the eight-team tournament, meaning their work doesn't come without a few perks. While every other team skips around time slots during round-robin play, sometimes playing in the mid-day Kansas heat, the Raiders will play 7:30 p.m. games each of the next three nights at Hoglund Ballpark, which will be home to all 17 games in the tournament.

"It's going to be nice," Engel said. "The sun will be going down, and it will be cool. Hopefully, it will bring a bigger crowd, too."

Tonight, the Raiders play Dodge City. Friday's game will be against Hays, and Saturday's against Tulsa, Okla., the defending tournament champion.

The eight-team tournament consists of two divisions: an American League, where the Raiders are joined by Dodge City, Hays and Tulsa, and a National League, consisting of Arkansas City, Blue Valley West, Claremore, Okla., and Ponca City, Okla.

The first three days are round-robin games within the designated leagues. On Sunday, the top two finishers from round robin in each league will play in the semifinals, while the other four teams play in consolation games.

The semifinal winners will play for the championship at 6 p.m. Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Last year's semifinals and championship game were canceled due to rain, leaving the Raiders with a fourth-place finish. Tulsa was declared the winner, being the only 3-0 team in the tourney.

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