TNT ranked No. 1 as new season begins

Daily News Sportswriter
Lebanon Daily News

TNT will be hosting the first Mid-Atlantic Fastpitch Travel League tournament this weekend, a tournament that marks TNT’s first game of the season. The tournament will also mark the first game for TNT as the top-ranked team in the International Softball Congress II rankings.

“We were hoping to be ranked No. 1,” said Irv Lutz, TNT’s general manager, “because there’s a lot of good teams out there. Everyone’s been talking about how we’re the team to beat. We’re gonna have a bull’s-eye on our back.”

The rankings were released last week.

For TNT, this week marks the start of the journey Lutz, and the rest of the team, hope will once again end with a championship. After finishing fourth two years ago, last summer TNT became the first team from the United States to win the prestigious international tournament, posting a 4-2 victory over the California Lumberkings, a team from Bakersfield, in the championship game in Kitchener, Ontario. That victory capped an 8-0 run through the tournament by TNT while wrapping up a 51-5 season that included a sweep of the three MAFTL tournament titles.

TNT second baseman Paul Blatt jumps into the arms of pitcher Jeremy Tracy while fellow infielders Jay Herr (23) and Jason McClune rush in to join the celebration following the final out of last summer's ISC II championship game.

Completing another MAFTL sweep — in addition to this weekend’s tournament at Prescott and Stoever’s Dam fields, the league will also hold tournaments in Lancaster County in June and July — won’t be easy. TNT might be No. 1 heading into the tournament, but four other teams in the 10-team field are ranked in the ISC II top 20, including third-ranked Hoffman Rise, fifth-ranked Keating Fitness, the sixth-ranked NY Knights, and 20th-ranked PA Power.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Lutz. “We’re anxious to get going, and we’re looking to repeat, but it’s going to be tough. There are a lot of good teams.”

This week’s MAFTL tournament will begin Friday with two games at Prescott. KCC, a team from Maryland, will play Cornerstone Excavating, a Pennsylvania team, at 7 p.m., and PA Power will play Cornerstone at 9.

TNT's Jay Herr homers in last summer's ISC II tournament in Kitchener, Ontario. Herr was named the tournament's MVP in helping to lead TNT to the championship.

Saturday will feature a full schedule of games at Prescott and at both Stoever’s Dam fields. TNT opens play at Prescott at 9 a.m., then plays again at 11 before finishing with a game at 3 p.m. The top eight teams from preliminary round play will be seeded for the start of the single-elimination playoffs, which begin at 7 p.m. Saturday. The semifinals will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, followed by the championship game at noon at Prescott.

The field for the tournament includes TNT, PA Power, Hoffman Rise, Keating Fitness, Aqua and Cornerstone Excavating, all from Pennsylvania; NY Knights and ADCO Tool Shed from New York; KCC from Maryland; and Peninsula Merchants from Virginia.

Still, Lutz said, TNT is ready.

“We’ve got a good bunch of guys,” said Lutz. “Everyone’s looking forward to this year.”

TNT returns pitcher Jeremy Tracy, voted the most valuable pitcher in the ISC II tournament last summer, and infielder Jay Herr, the ISC II tournament MVP who set or tied four tournament records. TNT also added outfielder Rob Loglisci, who was named to the ISC II All-Tournament team while playing with PA Power, and infielder Lance Bower from Hoffman Rise. Lee Lutz will once again serve as the field manager for the team.

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