Atlantic Shore finally earned itself an off day Tuesday after playing three tough games to open the 13- to 15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series.
Instead of enjoying the air conditioning in the hotel room and avoiding the high humidity in Loudoun County, Va., Atlantic Shore was out practicing Tuesday morning in preparation for its elimination game today at 11 a.m. against Tallahassee/Leon, Fla.
Atlantic Shore consists of players ages 13-15 from Atlantic and Cape May counties.
"It was a long practice," said Stephen Myers, who will be getting the start today for Atlantic Shore. "It's really hot, but we needed it and we have the biggest game of our year coming up tomorrow.
"But it was worth it. Most teams don't think about practicing on their day off. We have a big game tomorrow so we wanted to practice."
Atlantic Shore players hit off of a tee, focused on hitting the ball to opposite fields and up the middle, as well as took infield and outfield practice, coach Bill Rauzzino said.
With a win against Tallahassee (1-1), Atlantic Shore (1-2) will be guaranteed a spot in single-elimination play starting Thursday, Rauzzino said. The top three teams in each division advance, with the top teams in each division earning a bye on Thursday.
Atlantic Shore can finish in second or third place in its division depending on the tie-breaker scenarios. The first tie-breaker goes to the winner of the head-to-head matchup, with the second being runs allowed and the third being run differential.
"Our backs are against the wall," Rauzzino said. "We know that if we win, we're in. We can be a two or three seed. We're ready. The kids are focused and ready. Obviously we control our own fate, and at this point that's all we can ask for."
But despite the position the team is in, this event has been a lot of fun for the team.
"They know when to be serious," Rauzzino said. "We're loose, but when it's time to play, they're serious. But they play freely. I've had teams in the past where when it gets tight they get a deer-in-the-headlights look. These kids don't have that."
Rauzzino's decision to start Myers was based off the coach's confidence in the team's pitching depth, as well as an advantage Myers may hold against Tallahassee. Myers is left-handed, and Tallahassee has struggled against left-handed pitching in this tournament, Rauzzino said.
"I watched both Tallahassee games against lefties," said Myers, of Margate.. "Both (of Tallahassee's opposing pitchers) didn't throw hard. They threw a lot of junk like me and had a lot of strikeouts, so I know if I do the same they won't be able to hit me."
Atlantic Shore can't just rely on Myers to pitch another gem to match the efforts of Kyler Pikus, Kyle Gerace and Nick Droboniku. The bats will need to come alive as well.
On Saturday, Atlantic Shore dropped its opener to Cranston, R.I., 2-1. Then on Sunday, Atlantic Shore fell to the host team, Greater Loudoun, Va., 3-2.
Atlantic Shore won Monday afternoon against Twin Cities, Wash., 1-0 thanks to a two-hitter by Gerace.
"Our pitching and defense have always been there and it's been huge," Droboniku said. "We just have to come out and put a few more runs up on the board. We know if we do that there is no way (Tallahassee) can score more than us."
Contact John Russo:
Babe Ruth World Series: Atlantic Shore vs. Tallahassee/Leon, Fla.
When: 11 a.m. today
Online: Follow the game through a link on our website at PressofAtlanticCity.com