Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Nicholas Antonelli, left, strays from first base as Matt Murphy prepares to play defense during Thursday's practice for the Amsterdam 11U baseball travel team at Isabel's Field in the city.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Michael Rocas throws a pitch during Thursday's practice for the Amsterdam 11U baseball travel team at Isabel's Field in the city.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Peyton Ausfeld prepares to make a throw after fielding a grounder during Thursday's practice for the Amsterdam 11U baseball travel team at Isabel's Field in the city.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Tyler Williamson lets some dirt fall out of his glove after making a play during Thursday's practice for the Amsterdam 11U baseball travel team at Isabel's Field in the city.
By MICHAEL KELLY
With a weekend of games looming against some of the area's best youth teams, the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League 11U travel squad is ready.
"We're excited," said Tommy Ziskin, Thursday. "We're hungry."
The Amsterdam squad is set to serve as the host squad for the double-elimination AABC New York State Tournament, which begins tonight at Isabel's Field in the city. The Tri-City Bombers will take on the North Colonie Blue Bison at 5:30 p.m., before Amsterdam takes on the South Troy Dodgers at 7:30 p.m. Games will continue Saturday, with the championship round to be played Sunday.
The winner of the tournament will advance to play in next weekend's AABC Gil Hodges 11U World Series in Brooklyn.
Amsterdam was granted a spot in the four-team field when it agreed to play host to the tournament, but the collection of talent playing for head coach Bill Murphy and assistant coaches Art Ausfeld and Rich Williamson has more than proven itself. As 10-year-old players, this group of Amsterdam ball players won several tournaments, while the group won its home tournament and made it to the semifinals in a Troy tournament last weekend.
"But this tournament is going to be out biggest challenge to date," said Murphy. "They're used to tough competition, but this one is going to be at a different level."
"You really don't get too many opportunities to step in with the heavyweights and see how you can do," Murphy said later. "This is an opportunity to see how we can do against teams (with lineups) hitting the ball from top to bottom."
Both the Bombers and Dodgers are select travel teams, while the Amsterdam squad is a club filled with home-grown talent. While going up against select travel teams will be a step up in class, Amsterdam's players did not seem too worried as they practiced Thursday night at Isabel's Field.
"We just want to have a lot of fun with this tournament," said Michael Rocas. "We want to play baseball the way we play it."
However, some things will be different for the local team. In this tournament, only nine players are allowed in the batting order and each game goes seven innings, rather than the normal six.
"So, things will be a bit different for us," Murphy said.
The main thing that will be constant for the squad is that it gets to play the double-elimination tournament on its home field, something the team is counting as in its favor.
"I don't know if we've lost a game this year at home," said Ziskin. "We like our home-field advantage."
Murphy said the club's coaches have communicated to the team's players that advancing past this weekend's tournament will take the best effort the club can muster. Regardless of how it plays, though, the Amsterdam team wants to make sure it enjoys what could be its final tournament of the summer.
"We don't care if we win; we just want to have fun," said Rocas. "But it would be nice to win it."
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