Wise Trailer Sales in 2014

Wise-r than before

Altoona team learned a lot in first tournament appearance last year

By Brian Varmecky

Wise Trailer Sales will represent Altoona for a second consecutive year and look to improve on their 3-2 run last tournament. Manager Rick Westover will once again lead the team and is returning about half of his roster from 2014. He and his team learned a lot during their first apperance in Johnstown last year and have renewed their focus for the upcoming battle.

"We had some ups and downs, but it was a learning experience, for sure," said Westover of the 2014 tournament. "I thought it went well. We had a good Tuesday night against Martella's at the Point, but we also made a lot of mental mistakes against the Philadelphia team. They capitalized and ended up beating us both times to eliminate us from the tournament."

"I told [my players] that to win the tournament, we need to do the little things this year," explained Westover. "You have to field the ball, not allow extra bases, you need to have good at-bats. The things that aren't glamorous are the things that the goods teams do well. When I watched Philadelphia and Chicago play last year, they were aggressive, they didn't make errors, they didn't make mental mistakes, and I think that was the reason those two teams played on Sunday."

Mix of returning players and new ones

The Altoona roster will include many familiar names, but Westover tells us that the make-up of the team is night-and-day from last year. Many of his new players came through the Flood City Elite program and will have showcase and travel baseball experience, but the national tournament is a much different atmosphere. The Wises will be looking to some of their veteran players to help pass on the lessons they learned last year.

Jacob Stern (who batted 0.278 last year with 6 runs and 4 RBIs) returns this year to play shortstop and Cy Treaster will once again be behind the plate. Trentin Martin pitched last year as a 17-year-old and returns to the mound again this season. Left-handed pitcher Pete Schaeffer earned a win over Flood City on Thursday last year and is also back.

"We have a really solid 20 guys that all have a skill set, so if we can put them in situations to be sucessful, I think we have guys 1 through 20 that can contribute," said Westover.

Team well tested from league play

The four team Altoona League was more competitive this year, according to Westover. His team and Johnston Realty finished the regular season tied with 19-4 records, but the Wises won first place on a tiebreaker. In the playoffs, Wise Trailers easily advanced to the finals, but Johnston was upset by Barton's Plumbing, who had finished 10 games back. The Plumbers continued to play well in the finals against Wise Trailers, but the defending champs were able to overcome the adversary and finished a 3-game sweep with a decisive 19-3 victory.

"We were tested this year," said Westover. "Barton's played us really tough. The last game was lopsided, but in the first two games, they had the winning runs on in the 7th inning. A win's a win, but it's nice to win games like that because when you get in the tournament, that's where you get the one-run game a lot of times."

Wise Trailer Sales a welcomed sponsor

The players are the ones who win their way into the tournament, but teams would not exist without sponsors, and Altoona has a great one in Bruce and Justin Wise of Wise Trailer Sales. The company originally sponsored a team in the Johnstown league during the mid-to-late 1990s. In 1998, current Martella's Pharmacy manager Ray Knupp took Johnstown's Wise Trailer Sales team to the national tournament and finished 2-2. Last year was Wise's first trip back to the tournament and first time as sponsor for an Altoona-based team.

"Our sponsors are phenomenal," said Westover "They are very supportive of what we do as an organization and they're very supportive with our parents and our players. As a coaching staff, anything we've asked for or felt that we needed, they have provided. I feel like they believe in us and what we do."

In an earlier interview, Ray Knupp was likewise appreciative of the support from the Wises: "I know Bruce Wise very well and he's a super, super guy. He was an excellent sponsor and I was excited that he got back into baseball. They've been a very strong team and well-represented in the tournament."

Upper bracket opponents expected

Altoona started their 2014 tournament with a 26-6 thrashing of the Chicago South Shore team. They then won a close 2-1 battle over Johnstown at the Point before suffering their first loss to Philadelphia 5-3. They rebounded with a victory over the second Johnstown team 9-3 and then had to face Philadelphia once again. It was a close game until Philadelphia scored nine times in the 5th, which led to a mercy-rule victory after 6-1/2 innings.

The three-win tournament means that Altoona is likely to play in the upper bracket this year. As a result, they may face Philadelphia and Flood City again, but will have to play them earlier in the week. There is also a chance they they will be paired against traditionally powerful teams like New Orleans and New Brunswick.

Westover: "With the tournament, there's a lot of tradition, but every year is a different year, and no one really knows what the tournament is going to be like this year."

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