The Trail Jays face a daunting but doable task in making it to the North Idaho American Legion (NIAL) State finals in Twin Falls next month.
But they first have to make it to the finals at the NIAL district tournament at Butler Park this week.
The top two advance to the state final, as Post Falls Prairie-Cardinals, Sandpoint Lakers, Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen, Cranbrook Bandits, Lewis-Clark Twins and the Jays battle it out for NIAL supremacy.
The fourth-seeded Jays enter the tournament coming off a tough road swing.
While they dropped all four games against top seeds, the Lumbermen and Twins, coach Nick Combo is optimistic about the upcoming tournament.
“I think we’re looking alright. Our first game we start off against Cranbrook and we’ve had their number all year . . . It’s a good match up to get us going.”
If the Jays do beat the bandits, depending on whether the third seed Cardinals beat the sixth seeded Lakers, the Jays will likely take on the first seeded Lumbermen in the next game.
“You have to play on top of your game because they’re obviously a great hitting team, as they showed this last weekend.
“So you really have to keep them off balance from a pitching standpoint.”
Coach Combo says he plans to start Jays’ ace Dallas Calvin against the Lumbermen in hopes the 16-year-old can neutralize the Lumbermen’s hack attack.
All playoff games are also nine-innings which translates into another set of challenges for the Jays.
“It’s a lot tougher . . . you can’t get away with just one pitcher per game, you’re going to need at least two to be effective.”
The Trail squad has beaten both the Lumbermen and Twins this year so winning the tournament is definitely within reach.
As Thursday approaches, Combo is working to get the team relaxed, focused and prepared mentally.
“I’m trying to get them focused and with the mind-set that they really can make some noise in districts.
“Physically they should be in shape, it’s more the mental part of the game that these guys have to focus on.”
The Jays face the Bandits in their first game Thursday night at 8 p.m. with the first game going at noon.
Opening ceremonies go at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by the Homerun Derby and the Jays first game at 8 p.m.