By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Fingers crossed, the 13th annual Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament will get underway today with a pair of doubleheaders at Memorial Field and Pendleton Heights.
There is a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, but some forecasts are optimistic much of the rain will be out of the way before the first pitches are slated to be thrown at 5 p.m.
Mother Nature certainly owes the tournament a break or two.
In each of the past two years, the traditional four-game Saturday finale at Memorial Field has been washed out because of rain. If forecasts hold up, the tournament will be fortunate to make it that far this time around.
In addition to isolated thunderstorms today, there’s a 40 percent chance of scattered storms on Wednesday and an 80 percent probability of rain Thursday. There’s less wiggle room in the schedule this year, as well.
Elwood and Frankton will open play at Pendleton Heights today at 5 p.m. Madison-Grant and the host Arabians are slated to follow, optimistically, at 6:30.
Newcomer Anderson Prep, the ninth team in this year’s field, takes on host Anderson at 5 p.m. at Memorial Field, and Alexandria and Lapel will follow at 6:30.
Things get interesting on Wednesday at Pendleton Heights.
The Elwood-Frankton winner is scheduled to meet Liberty Christian at 5 p.m. with a trip to Thursday’s semifinals on the line. The loser will battle the Anderson Prep-Anderson loser at 6:30 to stay alive in the consolation bracket.
The rest of the tournament will play out in traditional fashion with doubleheaders at the two first-round sites on Thursday and a — hoped for — grand finale Saturday at Memorial Field.
This week’s weather isn’t the only element causing guesswork this year.
Heavy snowfall two weeks ago, combined with spring break, has conspired to keep many teams indoors ahead of today’s tournament debut. As a result, coaches aren’t certain what to expect from their teams when the games begin.
“We’re both going to kinda come out rusty,” Anderson Prep coach Alex Bare said of the Jets’ debut against Anderson. “I’m not saying we’re going to tuck our heads in the sand. We’ll give it our best effort and see what happens.”
That’s been a successful approach throughout the years in this event.
Defending champion Alexandria is the fourth different school to win the title in the past four years. Dating back to Anderson’s last championship in 2007, five different schools have hoisted the trophy in the past six tournaments.
This year’s field features new head coaches at Pendleton Heights (Travis Keesling), Elwood (Nick Oldham) and Liberty Christian (Mark Miller) in addition to Anderson Prep playing in its inaugural tournament.
Several teams have key starters returning, and the general lack of quality practice time lends an even more wide-open feel than usual to the proceedings.
“It’s an interesting mix this year,” Lapel coach Brad Lantz said. “It’s going to depend on how the ball bounces and how prepared guys are. It could absolutely be wide open. I want to make sure my guys are as prepared as they can be so if that door is wide open, we can take advantage of it.”