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Encouraging signs on Tri-Cities diamonds

Mid-July isn't exactly peak season for high school sports, but Tri-Cities baseball fans had to love what they saw this week nonetheless.

The final four teams in the Phil Lawler Summer Classic St. Charles Regional were Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North. Couldn't have worked out any better on the local front, especially with East playing North and Batavia facing Geneva.

All of the teams exhibited plenty of cause for optimism for the season that counts (next spring), even with some of the teams' top players otherwise engaged this week with travel ball in lands far, far away.

Several of the players that were slightly under the radar this last season (like Geneva's Chally and North's Dennis) served notice that they're poised for monster senior seasons, and East proved its pitching should be just fine, thank you, despite losing a bunch of quality arms to graduation.

Lots can happen between now and late March, but Sly's going to make an early, early UEC River prediction and say that Batavia is going to prevail in 2014, and this time, the Bulldogs won't have to share the honors.

When at full strength, the Bulldogs have the best blend of speed, extra-base hit potential and depth offensively, and there doesn't appear to be dominant enough pitching elsewhere to close the gap via the mound. But it won't be easy for Batavia to say the least, not with the talent that's been on display this summer around the area.

Lastly for now, good luck to the Saints in the summer Elite Eight next week.

To finished third in the spring, then qualify for the summer Elite Eight less than six weeks later shows why so many people were excited to welcome Len Asquini and Co. back to the Saints' dugout a couple years ago. That program is hotter than the mid-July sunshine.

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