Babe Ruth All-Star tournament brings convoy of visitors

Published 9:11 pm Thursday, July 29, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
The Babe Ruth 13-year-old Ohio Valley Regional opens today at Thomas Memorial Stadium, and Niles manager Dave Hopper said his team figures to be the underdog.
Win or lose, however, the 10-team tournament will benefit the city.
Nine teams are in town from seven states, competing for a spot in the Babe Ruth World Series in Van Buren, Ark. The teams bring with them a caravan of fans that will spend time, and money, in Niles.
Each team brings about 15 players and three coaches. Including family and fans, Clark estimates the regional could bring two to three thousand visitors to Niles. One team booked 40 rooms in the Niles Inn.
To prepare for the tournament, Niles' Babe Ruth league needed to repair damages done to Thomas Stadium by last week's storm. The league borrowed $6,000 from the city council to repair electrical systems at the stadium, Babe Ruth president and tournament director Rick Olinghouse said.
Clark said hosting tournaments is a huge benefit to the Babe Ruth league that doesn't receive any tax money.
As far as the regional goes, Hopper said his team is the underdog because they are the only team in the field that didn't win its state championship. Niles lost in the final game, but gets an automatic bid into the regional because it is the host team.
The Niles All-Stars open the regional at 8 p.m. today against Grosse Point South, the team that beat them in the state championship.
Grosse Point beat Niles twice in the state finals, outscoring them 18-2. The championship game was closer, however, with Grosse Point prevailing 5-1.
Olinghouse is also optimist about the 13-year-olds' chances in the opening round.
In both Michigan tournament games, the first inning is what killed Niles. In their first loss to Grosse Point, Niles gave up nine of 13 runs in the first inning. In game two, they allowed three of Grosse Point's five runs in the first.
To break out of the first inning woes, Hopper said he's using his ace starter, right-hander Buddy Williams. Williams will have to give up fewer walks than Niles' pitchers did in the state tournament to be successful, Hopper said.
Hopper added that the All-Stars need better hitting and smarter base running if they want to win tonight.
The regional is double-elimination. If Niles wins, it plays West Virginia at 7 p.m. Friday. Should Niles lose, it will play at 10:30 a.m. Saturday against the loser of Friday's South Indiana/Wisconsin game.