Granddaddy of them all, 19th annual BP Invitational begins

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 11, 2013

East Texas Canes coach Chase Brewster wanted to wow his boys with a trip of a lifetime.

So he brought them to Alaska.

“I wanted to do something that the kids would never forget,” he said. “I wanted to do something that no one around here has ever done.”

The Canes out of Texarkana are one of three Outside teams here to participate in the 19th annual BP Invitational at Mulcahy Stadium, the final stop on the Alaska Airlines Tournament Tour.

“We went to Tampa, Fla., last year and I just felt like we could have done better once everything was over,” Brewster said. “I did not want to have any regrets with this team. Hopefully it will be an once-in-a-lifetime experience no one will ever forget.”

Or maybe it’ll become their Texas tradition.

Just ask Randy Bachman, general manager of the Napoleon Post 300 River Bandits of Ohio. This is the fifth time he has brought a team to Alaska.

“This is something that all of the kids coming through our program hope to get a chance to do,” said Napoleon coach Shane Coleman. “What started out as an idea to come every three to five years has turned into an every other year ritual.

“We really love the people, hospitality and sights of Alaska. This isn’t something that very many kids will get an opportunity to do, so we try to make it as special and memorable as possible.”

The Alaska Airlines Tournament Tour includes stops in Fairbanks, Wasilla, Kenai and Anchorage.

This year’s third Outside team, Woodinville Post 127 out of Seattle, is making its first trip to the 907.

“We have heard lots of great things about Alaska and thought it would be a great opportunity for our players to visit another state that they have never been to,” said Woodinville coach Alan Dillman. “Most of us are hoping to see some wildlife and hopefully catch some big fish.”

The Woodinville Legion AA team draws from a single high school with an enrollment of 1,400 students. But the Legion team is part of the Woodinville Baseball Club, which was established in 1993 and includes a Legion A team and teams in the U-14 and U-13 Koufax and Pony leagues.

Since coming back to the American Legion ranks in 2009, Woodinville teams have combined to win three Washington state championships.

The team’s top hitter just might be Davis Baillie. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound slugger is hitting .462 in 24 games and has 22 RBIs in his last 12 games before coming to Alaska.

Other top hitters include Paul Sutton [.550], Derek Svanevik [.514], Chris Okura [.421] and Brent Donlan [.412].

In terms of pitching, the staff is anchored by starters Henry Coba [4-1, 1.60], Matt Quarre [5-1, 2.38] and Brian Rutherford [4-0, 2.22]. Svanevik is the closer.

The River Bandits draw from a number of nearby high schools: Napoleon, Archbold, North Central, Defiance, Evergreen, Montpelier, Wauseon, Bryan, Tinora, Edon and Ayersville.

Since 1998, the team has compiled a .719 winning percentage in more than 900 games. The River Bandits made a Legion World Series appearance in 2001 and have won the Ohio state title five times.

Napoleon's most famous former player is Chad Billingsley of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The club also produced 2002 first-round draft pick Luke Hagerty.

This year's team features plenty of pop, led by Dylan Henricks [.440], Ryan Masters [.417], Tyler Batt [.375] and Dom Gentile [.357].

On the pitching staff, Batt has thrown three complete games in four starts, and Austin Hancock [2-0], Masters [3-0], Western Rivers[ 2-0], Tyler Torrez [2-0] are unbeaten. The team ERA is a tidy 3.54.

For Napoleon, their focus is baseball but they hope to enjoy the experience along the way.

“We always hope to get up to the abandoned gold mine and take the team on a halibut fishing trip out of Homer,” Coleman said. “We want this trip to be something each of them will remember the rest of their lives.”

The East Texas Canes are in only their second year of existence, yet already they’ve already have made a major impact with it comes to getting kids to the next level with two dozen college signees, including nine this year.

Left-handed pitcher Blake Sullivan of Southern Arkansas University has gone 5-2 with a 1.44 in eight starts with the Canes. At the plate he has hit .388 with 37 runs in 37 career games.

West Virginia University-bound pitcher Corley Huffstickler has a 4-0 record with a 1.75 career ERA.

“We pride ourselves on having five or six aces on this staff, and another five or six in relief who can shut anybody down,” Brewster said. “We are one of the few teams you will see this summer that actually has a bullpen.”

Offensively, top hitters for the Canes include Nate Fielder [.370], Garrett Huff [.325] and Nick Purifoy [.313].