So many of the Licking County Athletics have played baseball almost their entire lives.

So many of the Licking County Athletics have played baseball almost their entire lives.

Still, every so often a new experience presents itself. This weekend marks one of those rare occasions as the Athletics are scheduled to complete a mini-tournament today with two games at Heath High School using wooden bats.

"I have actually never played in a game using a wooden bat," middle infielder Jordan Maier of Heath said.

The players were not the only ones in the dark about the mini-tournament, which also was scheduled to include two games last Saturday at Don Edwards Park in Newark .

The visiting teams from the Tri-State Collegiate League, which has teams located primarily in northern and eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania , originally were slated to be out of the Toledo area. Last week, however, coach Jeff Maier said changes were made and the opponents likely were to be coming from Pittsburgh.

"That's what the league told me, anyway," he said, adding that several of his players were going to try to get in some batting practice last week sans the metal bats.

A payoff for the adventure could be forthcoming, too.

"Using wood, you kind of have to re-learn bunting and things like that," coach Maier said. "Hitting behind runners, moving the runners over and so forth, those kinds of things are different, too.

"But those are things that are good to learn. For most of these kids this will be the first time using a wooden bat so it'll be interesting, no question. I'd imagine they'll be real glad getting back to metal."

•SEASON UPDATE -- The Athletics are coming off a slow week. Last Tuesday's scheduled game against the Columbus Big Katz, also a member of the Tri-State league as are other central Ohio programs such as the Columbus Sharks, Columbus Hawks, Gahanna Rockets and West Columbus Sports Central, was canceled when a field could not be secured. Also, bad weather washed out last Wednesday's game at Pickerington American Legion Post 283.

The Athletics were 9-8 overall entering last Thursday's game at Chillicothe Post 757A, but coach Maier remains confident a turnaround is on the horizon. Playing in the second of four full summer tournaments June 20-22 in Zanesville , the Athletics won all three of their pool games before falling to Prospect Post 368 4-3 in their first game in the championship bracket.

The Athletics play Tuesday through July 6 in the Lancaster Post 11 Baseball Classic. They also play host to the Columbus Black Sharks on Monday at Don Edwards Park. The final tournament before the Babe Ruth 16-18-years-old World Series is July 11-13 at the Buckeye Elite Tournament.

"Day in, day out, we're seeing some good stuff. I think we're making that turn," coach Maier said. "When you have basically an all-star team, you just know kids are going to step up and settle in sooner or later."

• OHIO RIVER BOUND -- Jordan Maier and his father visited Marietta College last Monday and decided that's where Jordan will play next year.

Maier, one of three Licking County graduates invited to play in the Mizuno All-Ohio All-Star Series earlier this month, played shortstop at Heath and helped it win the Division III state title in 2007 and return to a regional final this past spring.

He batted .420 with one home run, 18 doubles and 31 RBI as a senior. He made only nine errors in 84 fielding chances.

Marietta finished 23-20 in 2008 but reached the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament final.

"It seemed like they had everything I wanted," Jordan Maier said. "It's a good program with a lot of history there.

"They've got a great recruiting class coming in, too. There's a lot of middle infielders so we'll just wait and see what happens."

• JUNIORS -- The Licking County Junior Athletics ran their record to 17-0 with a 7-1 victory over the Zanesville Juniors last Thursday at Don Edwards Park.

Lakewood's Bryan Large struck out seven to earn the pitching decision. Newark's Ryan Deuschle and Licking Valley's Nate Hopkins had two hits apiece to pace the offensive attack.

It was anything but a typical win, however.

"No, it's been a crazy summer," coach Ron Wintermute said. "We've went extra innings, won a couple of times in the bottom of the seventh (inning). This one was a little unusual."

The Junior Athletics also are representing St. Louisville American Legion Post 804 and will compete in the District B Tournament beginning July 10. They won last year's state tournament. This year's event begins July 17 in Lancaster.

"A big part of our secret is we hit top to bottom in our lineup," Wintermute said. "This isn't our typical group, either. We're a little younger and less experienced, but it's a great group. The kids get along very well."

The roster also includes Licking Valley's Jason Holman, Ryan Smeltzer and Nick Moore, Newark Catholic's Derek Adam and Xavier Cook, Heath's Tim Patterson, Lakewood's Justin White, Newark's Chase Mathie and Garrett Williams and Granville's Caleb Brown.

The Junior Athletics play a home doubleheader today against Pickerington Post 283B.