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Big test awaits Dolton Braves

Big test awaits Dolton Braves

The Dolton Braves are going big-time this week.

After entering the Stan Musial semipro playoffs the past few years, the

Braves will make their debut Thursday in the National Baseball Congress World

Series at Wichita, Kan.

Dolton (39-15) opens against the Liberal (Kan.) BeeJays, last year's NBC

runner-up, at 7:30 p.m. The 39-team, double-elimination tourney runs through

Aug. 15.

The NBC World Series, now in its 59th year, is considered the nation's

premier non-professional tourney. It traditionally features most of the

nation's best collegiate players, along with former minor-leaguers -- and even

some former big-leaguers on occasion.

Liberal pitcher Brian Carpenter, named the top prospect by scouts attending

last year's World Series, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as soon as the

tournament ended.

This week's trip to Wichita marks the realization of a long time goal for

Braves manager Roger Tarala, whose team qualified by winning the Northern

Illinois Baseball League with a 9-3 record.

"When we first started the team, we wanted to play in the best (postseason)

tournament," he said.

Tarala isn't worried about his team being able to compete with the best

semipro clubs in the nation. Last summer, the Braves beat two teams that went

on to win national titles -- the Midlothian White Sox (NBC) and Lombard (Stan

Musial).

"Other teams that I think we're just as strong as have placed, at least (at

the national level)," Tarala said.

But the Braves haven't quite been able to crack the upper echelon.

"The last couple of years, I think the reason we haven't jelled all the way

is injuries," Tarala said. "This year again, we lost our No. 1 starter

(Thornridge grad Sam Jurka).

"If we can stay away from that and stay together a whole year, I think we

can compete at that level all the time."

One of Dolton's strengths is an infield anchored by shortstop Tom Dorton,

second baseman Steve Polewski and third baseman Drew Carlton. Polewski is a

Chicago Washington grad who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system,

while Carlton is a former Toronto Blue Jays farmhand.

"(Dorton) never got drafted, but most people think he's the best player on

the team," Tarala said.

Centerfielder Kelly Kropp, a former Thornwood and University of Illinois at

Chicago standout, is another Dolton mainstay.

The Braves' top pitchers include righthanders Basil Clausen, a senior-to-be

at Eastern Illinois University who has been the staff ace since Jurka's injury;

Dave Trolian of UIC; and Danny Wright, a Thornwood grad.

In anticipation of the tough competition and potentially hectic schedule at

Wichita, Tarala has beefed up the Braves' roster with players from other

semipro teams in the south suburbs.

Among the newcomers are pitchers Reid Hensley (South Suburban College), Ed

Budz (St. Xavier University) and Chris Bechtold; infielder Ron Rojas

(Northwestern University); and catcher-infielder-outfielder Mike Birsa

(Northern Illinois University).

Tarala is hoping all the effort pays off.

"Everybody's excited," he said. "We're just going around the clock,

filling out papers and forms, faxing things to Wichita.

"If we get a little pitching, I think we can do a real good job."

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