In It To Win It
Host Team Vows To Be Competitive
Jay Grann is no stranger to the Babe Ruth World Series experience.
Growing up, he visited Diethrick Park on many occasions to watch tournament games, including when his older brother, Casey, played in the 1995 and 1997 World Series.
“I was completely jealous of him. I would have cut off an appendage to play,” Grann said.
He won’t have to consider such bold moves this year.
As the manager of the Southern Tier All-Stars, Grann will have the best vantage point in the park, beginning at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday when the host team opens World Series play against Charleston, Missouri, the Midwest Plains regional champion.
Because Grann, who coaches the Frewsburg High School team in the spring, was able to draw talent from areas outside Chautauqua County, Southern Tier’s roster includes players from as far east as Portville and from as far west as North East, Pennsylvania.
“That was one of the big reasons I had interest in taking over this team,” he said. “We’re going to be able to put a lot of talent together, and we’re going to be competitive.”
Chris Williams of Silver Creek can’t wait.
“It’s an honor,” the center fielder said. “Of all the kids who tried out, and to be one of the guys who got picked to be on this amazing team, in my eyes, it’s definitely a blessing. … I think we’ve got a great group of baseball players here and I think if we all just do the best we can and play as hard as we can, I don’t think we’ll have a problem playing in this tournament.”
Grann said two-thirds of the lineup is “pretty concrete,” but added he’s still “tinkering around” with a few guys in a couple different spots.
“We want to put the best nine out there,” he said.
The pitching staff includes Kyle Majka (Mayville), Reid Tarnowski (Fredonia), Trey Swartz (Fredonia), Easton Tanner (Bemus Point), Sammy Mullen (Silver Creek), Adam Wray (Portville), Caleb Caldwell (Frewsburg), Brock Conn (North East, Pennsylvania), Bryce Jackson (Jamestown), Matthew Gullotti (Falconer) and Colin Watts (North East, Pennsylvania).
Behind the plate will be Mullen and Conn, while the infield will include Swartz at first, Tanner, Majka and Lucas Porpiglia (Dunkirk) at second, Tarnowski at shortstop, and Andrew Pumford (Jamestown) and Watts at third.
The outfield will include Pumford and Mark Mammoser (Frewsburg) in left field, Williams and Tyler Winchell (Fredonia) in center and Caleb Caldwell (Frewsburg) in right. Adam Goot (Cassadaga), a third baseman/pitcher, broke his hand and will not be able to play in the tournament.
“I think we’re going to play defense and I think our pitchers are going to throw strikes,” Grann said. “I’m definitely a little concerned about our offense facing the quality pitching from around the country, but defensively we’ll play well.”
Pumford admitted that Southern Tier has a difficult challenge in front of it, but he also acknowledged that “this is the best group of guys we could have for us to be successful.”
“That is what gives us the best chance,” he added. “I think with the practice we’ve been putting in we can give them a run for their money.”
Grann recalled how his brother “pitched a whale of a game” against a Texas team more than two decades ago, baffling the boys from the Lone Star State with an assortment of changeups, curveballs and knuckleballs through five innings. The Chautauqua County team eventually lost that game, but it did show that where there is a will, there is a way for the host team.
“I kind of told them that this is not the ‘Firecracker Classic’ where you’re playing a team two hours away,” Grann said. “I told them that these are the best teams in the country and the best players in the country.”
Like Williams, Pumford is anxious to get started.
“You don’t get an opportunity to play teams from Missouri, Florida, Alabama or California that often,” said Pumford, who served as a World Series bat boy seven years ago. ” … This is the best competition we could possibly see at this age group. We’re excited.”
NOTES: Grann’s coaching staff is comprised of Brenin Payne, Angelo Marra and Mike Matz. Payne will coach first base, Marra will coach third and Matz will be the pitching coach.