It all comes down to pitching for Kingman Junior All Star teams
Kingman North and South juniors opened the District 9 Little League All Star Tournament Tuesday in Yuma, and just like the other all star tournaments that came before them, pitching will be the key.
"Pitching is the big unknown for us," North manager John Venenga said. "If I can only throw a guy for 20 pitches and if he's not on, and he throws pitches to three guys, it hurts us. I need a guy to come out and throw 20 pitches and get through an inning."
Venenga expected to start Eric Venenga when North opened the tournament Tuesday night against Yuma East, and will still have Josh Allen, Anthony Avitabile and Colton Stanley in reserve.
But while pitchers in the junior division are limited to a pitch count of 95, it's a number that Venenga doesn't want to get to with his pitchers. It would mean they would be done for the rest of a tournament, which could prove detrimental to them if they start making a deep run in the tournament.
"We run into the problem of having enough pitchers to last through a whole tournament," Venenga said. "If we are going to make a run into this tournament, I have to be smart about how I use them early."
In a addition to his starting four, Noah Weiler, Josh Tefft, and Michael Mendola could see some time on the mound.
"All these guys know that at any given time they might have to pitch," Venenga said.
South manager Chad Benson is also feeling the pinch with the strict pitch counts. He will relied heavily on Garret Stephens, Dominic Espinosa, Colin McMullen and Quentin Lopez as South opened the tournament on Wednesday.
"My strategy is to have my guys throw good pitches," Benson said. "I'm going to try and keep my pitch counts as low as I can, but unfortunately there are things that I can't control."
One of those uncontrollable things will be minimizing errors, because when you are concerned about the pitch count, an error will add unneeded pitches.
"When you are in an all star tournament, you can't afford to give a team four or six outs because the collection is so good and they are going to take advantage of that," Venenga said. "Maybe one error, you can get out of that. But two or three in an inning - that is going to cost you. and when you play every day and you have to sit a guy for more than two days, your tournament is over."
While pitching will be the key to how successful the Kingman teams will be, both managers are feeling pretty good about the squads they are taking down to Yuma. The team chemistry that has been building over the last three weeks.
"We are positive, based on the talent we have on this team, I don't think there is any reason why we can't go down there and seriously contend," Benson said.