Junior legion squad set for regionals

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Josh Flickinger/Beloit Daily News Cal Ries, shown here scoring a run for Beloit Turner, is one of the top players on the Beloit 17U Legion squad, which will begin regional play tonight.

BELOIT - Tim McMahon knows his team has the ability to come up with a regional championship.

The good version of his team, that is.

McMahon's 17U Beloit Legion team has consistently showcased two things this summer: An ability to play at a high level. And a sometimes maddening inconsistency.

"We are a really young team," McMahon said. "We've only got one 17U kid. All the rest are 14, 15 or 16. It depends on the day, but they are really good when they want to be. We have talent everywhere. I don't know if I've ever coached a team that I can just plug and play players all over, and I don't ever have a problem with that on this team."

Beloit will open the six-team regional tournament against Racine Friday night at the Stateline Family YMCA Youth Sports Complex, with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. The tournament will continue at Janesville's Riverside Park throughout the weekend, with the championship set for Monday evening.

Other teams in the field include Jefferson, East Troy and Hartland.

"The only team in the field that we've faced this summer is Janesville," McMahon said. "So everyone else, we'll be seeing for the first time. We played a lot of the summer at 16U, but I know that there are some strong teams out there, and we'll have to put it together. It's a double-elimination tournament, but only the first-place team moves on to the state tournament."

McMahon said his team, which enters the tournament with a 20-6 record, has been especially strong on the mound.

"We've got Cal Ries and Joey Smith who have really led the way for us on the mound and at the plate this year," McMahon said. "Those guys have been really steady for us. But our pitching in general has been good. We have three or four other guys that we can count on to get in there and do the job for us."

The team won its first five games and were 11-1 in late June before hitting a stretch in which things went slightly awry. However, they enter the tournament having won three straight games, and McMahon is feeling good about their chances.

"We started out the season really hot," McMahon said. "We got a little flat there for a while, but we took this week off for practice, and hopefully they are ready to roll. But this team can do it. I have really high hopes for this weekend."

The team consists of a pair of Clinton players, one from South Beloit, one from Beloit Memorial and the rest of the 14-team rosters is comprised of Beloit Turner players, another outstanding sign for the future of the Trojan program.

"The coaches and the kids are willing to work, I think that's the biggest reason for the success of the program," McMahon said. "The kids are putting the time in to get better. The workouts are non-stop throughout the year. Whenever they get the chance to, they are there."

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