It has been 42 years since a Kelley Federation-based team won the NABF Regional, but Juniata VFW manager Keith Walters says this could be the year the drought ends.
"It's a tough feat, but we're gonna go at it," Walters said after Wednesday night's NABF senior division regional tournament meeting at the Quality Inn. "Both Altoona teams have a good shot."
Whether Juniata VFW or Martin Oil could be the first local team to win in more than four decades will help be decided by today's outcomes in the NABF tournament. Kelley Federation champ Martin Oil plays Quad County League champion Seneca Valley at Vets Field at 1 p.m., while VFW meets Gaithersburg, the Potomac Junior Legion League champ, at 10 a.m. at Vets.
Walters won't be without some connection to his opponent. He spent two years coaching Little League in Gaithersburg, followed by two as head of the community's umpire organization before leaving the Gaithersburg area 20 years ago.
"Some of the guys coaching back then are still coaching," Walters said. "I told the [Gaithersburg coaches] to say hello to me."
He stopped to let out a laugh.
All games at Vets Field
Gaithersburg at Juniata VFW, 10 a.m.
Seneca Valley at Martin Oil, 1 p.m.
Seneca Valley at Gaithersburg, 4 p.m.
Juniata VFW at Martin Oil, 7 p.m.
Juniata VFW at Seneca Valley, 3 p.m.
Gaithersburg at Martin Oil, 7 p.m.
"Hopefully, they go back and say I beat them," Walters said.
Walters picked up Barkman Oil infielder Casey Hamilton and catcher Nate Reid, Dick's Pharmacy's Cameron Kyle and outfielder Zeke Quirin, Sheetz outfielder David McCloskey and ReMax infielder-pitcher Ryan Hershberger.
Martin Oil, meanwhile, added Barkman pitcher-outfielder Derek Forshey, ReMax outfielders J.R. Gearhart and Jordan Novosel and Dick's Pharmacy's Nate Clancy.
Walters said four of his additions are likely to start every game of the four-team, two-day round-robin tournament, noting shoring up VFW's defense at catcher led him to add Reid. Pitching was also a point of emphasis, but the starter in opening game will be Josh Wyandt.
"They know they have to go out and play their best," Walters said. "There's some games you can go out, make a few mistakes and come back and win. When you get to this level and you're playing teams from out of state, the mental errors have to be very minimal."
Martin Oil manager Ed Davis declined to comment.
Notes: The winner of the tournament will be the team with the best record. Head-to-head results will be the tiebreaker if two teams share the same record. ... Mansion Park will be the backup field if Vets cannot hold water. ... All games will be seven innings.