BEVERLY - Warren versus Marietta. One of the biggest rivalries in all of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Whether on the baseball diamond, on the basketball court, on the football field or even on the soccer pitch, a Marietta versus Warren battle never fails to stir up the emotions of each team and those that cheer them on.
Now 11 of those combatants team up to make up almost two thirds of the Beverly/Lowell American Legion team that will head to Lancaster next week with hopes of bringing home a state championship.
Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 batter Clay Ullman, center, is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a home run. Ullman is now playing for Ohio Valley University.
"I'm not the biggest fan of Warren in the world," joked Beverly/Lowell right-handed pitcher and Marietta Tiger Ben Barnas, making sure all of the Warren players within earshot could hear him. "It's kind of different having them as teammates, but they are all good guys."
Barnas is joined on the Post 389/750 roster by fellow Tiger teammates Evan Sawyer, Nick Spurr, Eli Lenington, Tim Grosel, Jordan Satterfield and Justin Futrell.
Tyler Proctor, Landon Kern, Ethan Estes and Gunnar Smith make up the Warren contingent of head coach Todd Engle's squad.
Proctor, the former Warrior and current Ohio Valley University third baseman, has been the biggest of a team filled with big sticks as he has collected an impressive 70 runs-batted-in on the season in just 40 games.
"My teammates have put me in good RBI positions all year," said Proctor, who sports a .514 batting average with nine home runs. "I've got Landon (Kern)and Clay (Ullman) hitting behind me so they can't pitch around me, and Eli (Lenington), Ethan (Estes) and Tim (Grosel) are doing a great job getting on in front of me."
Lenington, who usually leads off for the 36-4 B/L squad, has scored 61 times and sports a .467 on base percentage.
"The middle of our lineup has really been hitting the ball well lately," said Lenington, who figures to play first base in the state tourney. "It's big for us to get on and let them produce the runs."
Lenington and Barnas are among those who played for the Marietta/Belpre legion team a year ago that merged with Beverly/Lowell prior to the season's opening.
Barnas, 8-2 on the season with a 4.02 earned run average and Sawyer (6-0, 2.72), have joined Monroe Central's Kordell Antill (11-0, 1.54) and Fort Frye's Zach Eddy (7-1, 2.82) to give Post 389/750 a very strong pitching rotation.
"It's been nice to kind of unite with all the other schools in the area," said Sawyer, the lone southpaw on Beverly/Lowell pitching coach Steve Riley's staff. "We have a chance to do something real special and make this area proud."
Grosel, (.318, 4HR, 20RBIs) who will man center field just as he did for last year's team that also advanced to the state tourney, hopes that last years experience coupled with the addition of the Marietta/Belpre players will result in a strong showing in Lancaster.
One advantage that Grosel sees is the leadership and experience of Engle, who guided Post 389/750 to a state title in 2006.
"He's (Engle) one of the best coaches I've ever played for," said Grosel. "He puts the pressure on you just enough that you want to do what he's asking you to do."
Futrell (.353), Satterfield (.256) and Spurr (.268) all will be called upon to play key roles at state.
"It's just been fun to play ball with a bunch of kids that know how to play the game of baseball," said Futrell. "We just need to go up there and play they way we have all year. If we can just do all the little things we should do well."
Kern (.465, HR, 50 RBIs) not only has gotten the job done with the bat, but has also done an outstanding job as the B/L catcher, allowing only three wild pitches on the season.
Smith (.244) has served as Kern's back up and also got some at bats as designated hitter, while Estes (.388, 17 RBIs) has forced his way into the starting lineup with his ability to handle the bat.
By making their fourth consecutive trip to Lancaster and arriving with a 27-game winning streak, many will list Beverly Lowell as one of the favorites going into the tourney.
Kern sees the new found chemistry developed by the team as one of the keys to a successful tournament run.
"This group of guys is just so connected," said Kern, "I have a better feeling about this year than last, we could go along ways."
Beverly/Lowell will begin its tournament run Monday with the schedule and opponent to be determined in a draw Sunday evening.