Area 2 showdown

Fairmont Post 17’s Tom Alvaro connects on one of his two hits against Preston Tuesday. Fairmont hosts Morgantown Post 2 at 7 p.m. today at Mary Lou Retton Park.

When it comes to American Legion baseball in this state, it’s usually a sure bet that either Fairmont Post 17 or Morgantown Post 2 will represent Area 2 at the state tournament.

At least, that’s been the case over the last four summers.

Morgantown is the two-time defending champion, while Fairmont owned that distinction after winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.

As far as Fairmont head coach Ken Beerbower sees it, Morgantown is the team to beat.

“They are the Area 2 champions the last two years,” Beerbower said. “They’re going to be tough, no doubt. They have a couple of solid pitchers. They can hit the ball. And they score a lot of runs.”

Catcher Alex Slusser felt Post 17 should have won the Area 2 championship a year ago.

In three tightly contested games a year ago, Morgantown prevailed twice by scores of 7-3 and 8-5, the latter coming in the Area 2 title game.

Fairmont’s lone victory against Post 2 was a 5-2 win behind the pitching of Jason Gallagher. The left-hander fired a nine-inning five-hitter with 13 strikeouts at Mylan Park. It was only the second time Gallagher had pitched a nine-inning complete game in his career.

After the Hillbilly Hardball Classic did a number on Post 17’s pitching staff, Beerbower will likely call on Gallagher or Kyle Allard to make tonight’s 7 p.m. start on the mound.

It will be no surprise to see Morgantown ace pitcher Andy Altemus on the hill, who enjoyed both success and disappointment against West Fairmont during the high school season. He dominated the Polar Bears in his first start this spring, allowing just one run in seven innings. Then West tallied eight runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings in Altemus’ second start.

With Post 17’s lineup featuring a plethora of Polar Bears, there’s no telling what might happen tonight.

All Tom Alvaro knows is that Fairmont will need to be on top of its game.

“They probably have the best coach in the entire state,” he said about Ernie Galusky. “We’re definitely going to have to kick it up a notch.”

And with a rivalry game between two talented opponents, it doesn’t take much to get motivated for a Fairmont-Morgantown American Legion contest.

“Post 2 gives me plenty to think about, trust me,” Alvaro said. “I think it’s more of a friendly rivalry, personally. I mean, it’s all business when we get out on the field. But we all talk to those kids. There’s no hatred there. There’s nothing like that. It’s just two good teams playing against each other.”

In off-the-field news, there’s a good chance Post 17’s lineup will have two big voids.

Preston and Tyler Musgrave have not yet been fully released to play for Fairmont. After Clarksburg did not field a team, everyone who signed up to play on that squad — Musgraves included — was released from Clarksburg.

In order for the Musgraves to play for Post 17, however, both Shinnston and Bridgeport must also sign releases for the brothers. Until that happens, and Beerbower believes it will, the Musgraves cannot play for Fairmont against an Area 2 opponent or in the league tournament, Beerbower said.

“There’s a few things going on as far as releases go,” Beerbower added. “All of the releases they need have to be in place by July 1. And we think that’s going to happen. That’s where it stands right now.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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