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Pilots are headed for the Hall

Gresham Pilots to play in national tournament
by: John Klicker, Gresham Pilots manager Jim Mott oversees a practice session Tuesday night at Gresham High School. The Pilots accepted an invitation to play in this week’s Junior Baseball national championship tournament.

A group of Gresham baseball players have put together a string of successful seasons, and are headed to the Hall of Fame this weekend. This group of 12-year-olds is still a bit young for enshrinement, but they have done enough to earn a berth at the Tournament of Champions in Cooperstown, NY.

The Gresham Pilots will be one of 96 teams competing for the Junior Baseball national title when the tournament begins Sunday, Aug. 27. The squad earned a spot in the elite field based on its achievements over the last few years. The team earned back-to-back district championships, then finished as the state runner-up this summer.

The Pilots have relied on their defense to get past most opponents, including a 21-game win streak last fall.

'Defensively we're pretty solid. I feel like we can stack up against anybody in the state,' manager Jim Mott said. 'They aren't the biggest kids, but they're a bunch of scrappers. We don't give up many runs.'

The tournament is similar to the Little League World Series, although Junior Baseball plays with slightly different guidelines. The field dimensions are larger than in Little League and teams play according to high school rules.

The Pilots are unsure what to expect on the field this week, but are sure to enjoy their time off the field. Each member of the team was given a pass to tour the Hall of Fame museum, and the squad also hopes to take in a Major League game at Yankee Stadium.

'We want to go back and compete, and we really want to enjoy the Hall of Fame. I'm sure that will be the highlight of the trip,' Mott said.

The team includes Travis Blanchard, Brett Kingery, Clay Mott, Taylor Myers, Andy Robertson, Kadyn Nannini, Brandon Fast and Michael Farrer of Gresham; Erik Churchill, Colin Liebertz and Donavan Brooks of Welches, along with A.J. Mayo from Oregon City. Coaches include Mott, Rich Blanchard, Paul Nannini, Denny Farrer and Alan Mayo.