Underwood-Orr off to good start
By MICKEY ALVARADO
No practice - no problem. The talent that the Underwood-Orr American Legion (U-O) coach Randy Sparks put together this season has been unable to gather for a single practice with the MHSAA season bumping into the start of his Open 18U elite travel baseball team. But U-O is still playing competitively and winning games.
U-O is currently carrying an 8-5 record after recently going 3-2 in the Motor City Pride Tournament in Adrian. Still, Sparks and his boys will need to get busy to match last year’s success, finishing 27-8 overall.
Sparks expects that he’ll have another relatively good season despite having younger players than ever before. He said that the team has been solid defensively but has left too many runners stranded to win the close games.
U-O has compiled an overall record of 360-151-2 between 1994-2009 and has had more than 100 players receive college scholarships during that time.
“It’s an elite team that is under no guidelines as far as where players come from,” said Sparks. “We’re out there trying to help the elite baseball player as a transition. We grab players that have abilities colleges are looking for on the skills side and then give them a vehicle to showcase that talent. ”
This year, U-O’s Jared Kujawa of Bedford is on everyone’s radar as catcher and outfielder. He’s already getting looks from above college level teams.
“He’s versatile and extremely athletic,” said Sparks. “One of the fastest kids I’ve had in a long time.”
To start the Motor City Pride Tournament, U-O edged the Dawgs 2-0 and got on a roll, defeating A Green 4-1 and knocking out the Redsox 17U 8-0.
The next two games turned into close losses with U-O falling 3-2 to the Heat and 3-2 against the Ontario Bullets.
U-O followed with a 3-2 run at the Great Black Swamp Tournament in Bowling Green, Ohio from June 24-27.
Game one ended as a two run, 7-5, loss but U-O came about and defeated the J.L. Clevelanders 2-1 to follow.
U-O split its next two games, losing 7-6 against the Michigan Bulls but winning 6-3 against the North Oakland Bulldogs.
The Ohio Warhawks beat U-O 7-2 to end their day.
U-O heads to West Lafayette Indiana for the Lids-Bulls Pastime Tournament from July 1-4. The event features more than 60 elite teams. Sparks tries to focus on tournaments in the tri-state area.
“I kind of spread it around,” said Sparks, “and give the colleges in those states a chance to see what we’ve got.