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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Charleston looking to make waves in regionals

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In this file photo, Charleston pitcher Paul Fox throws against Park Hills earlier this season. Fox will start for the Squirrels today against Junction, City, Kan. at 3 p.m. Brent Shipman, Staff
MONTROSE, Co -- Fresh off their improbable run to the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth championship, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels once again will look to make some noise when the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament start today.

Unlike in last year's tournament, when they Squirrels were guaranteed as spot in the tournament due to their hosting duties, this year's squad was forced into six straight do-or-die games to earn their way into the bracket.

That's something that Charleston head coach Minner hopes plays into his team's mentality as they look to advance to the Senior Babe Ruth World Series for the first time since 2008.

"We had to win to get this year's tournament, where in year's past we knew were in it so we had something to fall back on," he said. "Hopefully by not hosting, having to travel out here and playing baseball the way we did last week, we're coming together at the right time.

"We're prepared for what's at stake this week."

By now, making to the regional tournament has become old hat for a Squirrel's team that has become annual contenders. This mark this sixth straight summer Charleston has made the tournament with 2008 marking their lone title run.

Set up in the same fashion as the state tournament, the Midwest Plains Regional is a double-elimination bracket consisting of eight teams from Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas and North Dakota.

Charleston will open up against a new squad from Junction City, Kan. today at 3 p.m. with an eye on staying out of the dreaded loser's bracket. They'll send ace Paul Fox to the mound, who pitched a complete-game effort in the Squirrels' first state title game against Poplar Bluff last week.

"We don't know much about them, but they look like a football team at dinner (on Tuesday)," Minner said of Junction City.. "They're some big kids, but big never met much to me."

"From what we've heard they have a pretty solid pitching staff and swing the bats well, which is probably the scouting report you're going to get out of everybody out here."

Though they come in to the tournament boasting a record just above .500, at 28-23, the Squirrels have a few key things going them as they try to avoid the same early round exit they suffered last season.

The biggest advantage is that all 16 members on the roster for Charleston's state championship run where able to make the trip the to Colorado.

A second thing Minner hopes to use in his favor is hard road his team took to get to this year's tournament as opposed to last year when they lost two of their first three games to end their season.

"This year's group is battle tested," Minner said. "We played a really tough schedule to prepare for this week. We did a lot of things good last year leading up to the state tournament as oppose to this team where. One thing we talked about all year is we struggled.

"But I think that gave us a sense of urgency at the right time. This team is tested and going in right now is playing their best baseball when they have to."