Starting Friday, seven teams from Hays to Arkansas City and all the way from Lawrence will converge on Pittsburg’s JayCee Ballpark for the American Legion AAA State Tournament.

Starting Friday, seven teams from Hays to Arkansas City and all the way from Lawrence will converge on Pittsburg’s JayCee Ballpark for the American Legion AAA State Tournament.
The list of teams include a five-time state champion, a first-year program and three teams that finished in the top four in the 2007 tourney.
“I think our mission is to win it,” said Lawrence manager Shaun Edmondson. “You can hang your hat on recent success a little  bit, but it is a new year.”
Lawrence finished second last year being Salina — who did not make this year’s tourney.
Ark City makes a return trip to the state tournament after finishing fourth last year. Manager Aaron Bucher said that the Black Diamonds lost seven of their eight position players from last season.
“To say that we have not taken some lumps would be an understatement,” said Arkansas City manager. “We went 2-19 in our high school season.”
The Black Diamonds (17-22) come into this year’s tournament with the second-worst record but that does not seem to bother Bucher. Andover comes into the tournament with a 13-24 mark.
“We don’t mind,” Bucher said. “We have the mentality that we just want to play so we will go anywhere just so long as we get the chance to play.”
Lawrence has some familiarity with the Black Diamonds. The Raiders (30-17) played Ark City on June 21 at the Al Ice Tournament in Lawrence. Lawrence knocked off the Black Diamonds 11-0.
“We have played Ark City and Olathe South and Buhler, so we have played three of the teams and it will be very competitive,” Edmondson said. “We just try to focus on us and getting on base to score runs.”
But, he said that there is one team to worry about.
“Anytime you have a host team, you get to sleep in your own beds and play on their own field,” Edmondson said. “I think that Pittsburg would have an advantage.”
Lawrence beat Pittsburg twice at last year’s state tournament.
Post 64 manager Mike Watt said that being home for the tournament is a significant advantage.
“We are sleeping in our own beds and we don’t have to worry about a schedule on when to get up or where do we have to be,” Watt said.
Not only that, but the fact that Pittsburg will showcase the field turf at JayCee Ballpark is another added bonus.
“Pittsburg is very proud of our new facility and it is one of the nicest in the Midwest,” Watt said. “It is just a great opportunity to showcase the facility by hosting the Legion State tournament.”
Last year, Post 64 finished third behind Salina and Lawrence and Watt said that Pittsburg brings back 12 from last year’s team.
“Anytime you have state tournament experience it is good,” Watt said. “Early in the season you just battle team chemistry but we have really settled in and having those kids return from last year should make those kids comfortable in what we do.”
Now, teams are focusing on their first tournament games — which all agree is the most important.
“I think everyone is in the same boat,” Bucher said. “The first round game is the most important but I think our chances are just as good any anyone else’s.”
Games begin at 11 a.m. Friday at JayCee Ballpark.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140