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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Championship baseball teams begin Regional Tournament today

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  • Jan. 13 was the day Leavenworth was named as host site for the 2014 American Legion Midwest Junior Regional Tournament.
    Since then, state chairman Keith Melick said it's been nothing but work to get Sports Field Complex and Leavenworth ready.
    The Regional Tournament has been hosted every year since 1933, and Melick said an estimated 1,500 people will be walking through the gates of the complex this weekend as state teams from six different states vie to earn a spot in the American Legion Junior World Series.
    The state champions from Texas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas will be competing for the regional title.
    To prepare, Melick said he and a band of American Legion volunteers have had to prepare hotel accommodations, food, T-shirts, programs and the field for the tournament. Besides each team's individual following of families and fans, tournament attendees will also include college scouts from Kansas, South Dakota and California.
    The Texas state champion, the Texarkana Bulldogs, are one team set to play this weekend and head coach Greg Cordray already is familiar with Leavenworth. As a retired Army officer, Cordray was stationed at Fort Leavenworth to attend officer school during his military days.
    While it's been a long summer of working up to a regional tournament bid, Cordray said his team flew through the Texas state tournament.
    "We did not take it lightly," Cordray said. "But, we won the championship commandingly. We had great pitching and we hit the ball well, so we were the dominant team."
    This year will mark the second in a row the Bulldogs have competed in the Regional Tournament, ending last season with a second-place finish. The Bulldogs will begin play in the first game of the weekend, set to play at 1 p.m. today against Kansas state champion, McPherson.
    As hosts of the regional tournament, local Legion team Geiger Ready-Mix received an automatic bid into the tournament.
    Geiger finished 0-2 in last weekend's state tournament at the Sports Field Complex, and head coach Mike Iannone said his team is looking to rebound from a performance that he said was not at the team's potential.
    "They're looking to bounce back," Iannone said. "We didn't perform at our best and they know it. They want to show that they're better than what showed up at the state tournament."
    Geiger's first game of the weekend is at 8:30 p.m. today against the Minnesota state champions.
    Iannone said his tournament goals are the same as every game the team plays — help his team grow as baseball players and people.
    But, he said he's looking forward to his team's opportunity to show the community what kind of baseball Geiger Ready-Mix is capable of playing.
    "I'm just looking forward to a good tournament," Iannone said. "It's our chance to show the people of Leavenworth that we're a little better team than what we were last week."

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