MILROY - For the first time since 1999 when the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League started to field a 14-year-old All-Star team, one manager will guide an All-Star squad through their entire three-year careers.
Bernie Howard, the Lewistown West manager, during the regular season, has managed the class of 2012 since they entered the league in 2010.
Babe Ruth baseball went to a three-tier All-Star competition in 1998 and Mifflin County fielded its first 14-year-old All-Star team in 1999. Since the league was founded in 1955, it has had at least one All-Star team and in 1969 it fielded its first 13-year-old squad.
Howard and his team will face Gettysburg on Sunday at 5 p.m. in District 7 game at the Armagh Memorial Field.
As 13-year-olds, Mifflin County finished 7-2 and just missed winning a state title by losing in the finals to West End of Williamsport, 9-4. Last season the All-Stars went 4-2 and were eliminated after pool play. Both years, the teams have won District 7 titles.
Howard has an overall record of 356-87 and an All-Star record of 68-21. During his Pennsylvania Babe Ruth Hall of Fame career, Howard has won three state titles: in 2003 (15-year-olds), 2004 (13-year-olds), and 2005 (14-year-olds), along with nine District 7 titles and has had eight finishes in the state's Final Four. In the regular season he has guided the West to seven league titles.
Five players were selected from league champion Lewistown and they included Most Valuable Player Lucas McKay, Max Remy, Blaise Roush, Aaron Snook and Teague Miller.
Reedsville placed four players on the team: Nate Koller, Dakotah Schlegel, Jared Michaels and Hunter Walker. Milroy had three players named to the All-Star team: Drew Hannon, Matt Lutz and Jacob Walters.
The rest of the squad is made up by Ross Torquato, the league's Outstanding Pitcher, from Belleville, Carter Spade from McVeytown and Hunter Shuff of Beaver Springs.
Ten players are now three-time All-Stars bringing that total to 212. Those three-timers include McKay, Snook, Roush, Koller, Schlegel, Walker, Hannon, Lutz, Spade and Shuff. With the trio from Reedsville, it now has produced the most three-time All-Stars with 36.
Hannon and Roush are just the fourth and fifth three-timers to play for two different teams. Hannon played for Burnham for two years (2010-2011) and finished out his career at Milroy. Roush played his rookie year with Strodes Mills and played his last two for the West.
Shuff is just the third three-timer from Beaver Springs as the Springs joined the league in 2009.
Walters is the only first-year All-Star on the squad.
One thing that this class has been able to do from its first game two years ago is hit the ball. In 2010, Howard watched his 13-year-olds hit at a .434 clip, the highest average ever for any team with 200 or more official at-bats. Last year, the 14-year-olds hit .402. They have scored 213 runs and pounded out 194 hits in that 15-game span.
"We have been impressed with the strong effort put forth by all our players during the practices and scrimmages," Howard said. "The overall skill level has been and remains very high. We have focused initially on defense and feel this area is a strong suit.
"Offensively this team has demonstrated they have the capacity to be highly productive,. "The staff feels comfortable that they will generate offensive firepower."
Howard will be assisted by the rest of his West coaching staff, Chuck Curry, Jeff Lusk and Kip McElwain.
"Pitching coach Kip McElwain has focused on a core group of pitchers," Howard said. "Consistency is the main goal here. In terms of leadership and team chemistry, we couldn't be more please. This team has blended together nicely and the coaches and players are eager to begin tournament play."
The winner of the tournament will advance to the state tournament in Williamsport on July 18.