WHEELING - As it is in baseball everywhere, pitching is the name of the game in the Edgar Martin/Beast of the East Classic.
If you don't have enough, forget it.
Year after year, we've seen it. Perhaps the best teams don't win. They find themselves breezing through the first three days, then having to piece together a staff through the championship round.
''One year we saw a team bring in a different guy in every inning (on a Sunday), and they came in from the field because they only had 10 guys,'' tournament co-director Bo McConnaughy said. ''It didn't work well, but...''
Through two games, some teams are already short in this arm's race. With a seven-to-nine game guarantee at the Beast, sometimes those with the most, and not necessarily the best, arms win.
''You're going to play six, maybe nine games,'' McConnaughy said. ''You better come with some people that have some arms.
''They don't all have to be throwing 90, but you better come here with some pitching if you're going to be successful.
''If you're just going to go on a wing and a prayer, it's going to be a tough road. If you have some kind of idea and some kind of game plan - which doesn't always work out - at least you have some plan formulated and you can adjust along the way.''
Ray McNabb's combined Colt teams from Bellaire and Union Local found a few veteran pitchers to mix in with mostly 15-16 year olds while playing in the Beast 19U bracket.
''I'm OK with throwers,'' McNabb said. ''Pitching and throwers are two different things. I've got some throwers, but probably two kids that have done a lot of pitching.''
Things aren't much better for the New York Eagles, who lost 10-6 to McNabb's Base-A-Ball club on Friday morning at Monarch Field.
They're 0-4 through two games, and they brought only six pitchers.
''It's tough,'' skipper Rob Maccone said. ''We came here last year, we had eight arms and we did fine. This year, we only have six and we're struggling.''
That means you've got to leave guys in longer than you would like.
''When you're short with arms, if he's already passed that 50-55 pitch mark, you can't bring him in for more than an inning or two the next day, so you might as well try to milk as much as you can out of it.
''It's not how you normally would do it, but when you're light on pitching, it's kinda what you have to do.''
Though nearly every team in the tournament sets its own pitch count, there are no inning or pitch limits in the Beast of the East. So the Eagles, who had three pitchers not make the trip, will get through this.
''We agreed to come here,'' Maccone said. ''What are you going to do, cancel last minute? No, so you go with what you've got. We'll go inning by inning on Sunday and see how it goes.''
Ed Pacheco, who runs the Brampton Royals out of Ontario, Canada, brought a team full of pitchers. But he's got his own issues.
They'll leave here Sunday, then play four games in three days beginning Monday when they get home.
The good news there is they had two guys not make the trip, so they'll be ready to go at the beginning of the week. In the Beast, they're mixing and matching.
''We've used six different pitchers through three games,'' Pacheco said. ''You go through everybody. Back at home, we have a pitch count where kids can only pitch 100 in a day. I kept them under 75 so the guys that pitched (Thursday) can pitch (today).
One more issue with pitching in the Beast is trying to save the best pitchers for last. This often simply doesn't work.
''In this tournament, you have to win,'' McConnaughy said. ''You want in that winner's bracket. You can't save somebody for tomorrow, thinking you're going to make it here, because you won't.
''We've seen that happen quite a few times where they've saved their best guy for the last day, then they don't make it to the No. 1 teams. They finish second, third, or fourth.
''The successful teams are guys who use their pitchers correctly, and they have the right amount of people to do it with.''
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org