The 24th Annual Plymouth Pilgrim Baseball Tourney draw was held in the PHS Athletic Office this week. This year’s tourney features the preseason #1 and #2 teams in Class 4A.
The Penn Kingsmen, returning for another year in the tourney, are ranked #1 in the State of Indiana in the preseason 4A poll that came out earlier this week. Hamilton Southeastern, a newcomer to the tourney, is preseason ranked #2 just behind Penn. HSE is coached by former Dekalb Baron Jeremy Sassanella. Sassanella hit a home run against the Pilgrims at Coveleski Stadium back in the 1996 IHSAA Semi State.
The other team featured in this year’s tournament is the Fort Wayne Carroll Chargers. Carroll won back-to-back State Championships in 4A baseball back in 2010 and 2011. Penn has won four State Championships in baseball dating back to 1994.
The tournament will take place on Saturday, 5/4/19 at Bill Nixon Field in Centennial Park. Action will get underway at 11:00 AM with the first of four games on the day. Carroll and Plymouth will battle in the first game of the day. Game 2 will start at approximately 1:30. Penn and Hamilton Southeastern will square off with one another.
The consolation game featuring the losers of Game 1 and Game 2 will battle at 4:00. The winners will square off for the championship tilt at 6:30 Saturday night.
This tournament actually began back in 1973 but has been interrupted a couple times since its inception. The 1974 tournament featured a future Major League Baseball Rookie-of-the-Year. The Gary Wirt Troopers came to the tournament in 1974 and brought with them Ron Kittle. Kittle hit a couple home runs across the road beyond the left field fence that day as he lead them to the tournament championship. Kittle, playing for the Chicago White Sox in 1983, was voted AL Rookie-of-the-Year by the Baseball Writer’s. Kittle hit 35 home runs and drove in 100 runs in leading the Sox to a Western Division Championship and the playoffs.
Another memorable event that took place in this tournament happened on Saturday, 5/5/1990. It was an unusually cold, blustery day for the first Saturday in May. At one point in Game 1 of the day as the Pilgrims were battling South Bend Adams, it started snowing so hard, the Pilgrims could not see their left fielder from the dugout. Sophomore Jason Benner was playing left field for the Pilgrims that day. He was part of the one and only “white out” at Bill Nixon Field in May. The home plate umpire Gene Buts called a time out and had everyone go to their dugouts until the snow squall passed.
The current version of this tournament started again in 1996 making this the 24th consecutive year. The Pilgrims have always tried to stack the tournament with excellent baseball teams. Former Pilgrim Baseball Coach Bill Nixon always wanted to make this tournament a smaller version of what an IHSAA Sectional would be like. The Pilgrims have won this current version of the tournament in 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, and 2009.
The Pilgrims have their 2019 season opener on Wednesday, 4/3/19 as they head to South Bend St. Joe to take on the Indians. St. Joe is preseason ranked 4th in 3A baseball. The home opener for the Pilgrims will be Thursday, 4/4/19 as they host the Laville Lancers. Laville is preseason ranked #10 in Class 2A baseball. The first pitch for the home opener is scheduled for 4:45.