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Knoch's Sutton heads to Big 26

Knoch catcher Eli Sutton has been selected to participate in the Big 26 Classic this weekend in Harrisburg, pitting a Pennsylvania all-star team gainst Maryland's all-stars in a three-game series.

JEFFERSON TWP — With plans to embark upon a college baseball career, Knoch catcher Eli Sutton wants to display his skills.

He couldn't have found a better stage.

An incoming senior with the Knights, Sutton has been named to the Pennsylvania roster for the annual Big 26 Classic this weekend in Harrisburg.

The Pa. stars will play the Maryland stars in a three-game series Friday and Saturday in the Harrisburg Senators' stadium.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Eli and he's earned it,” Knoch coach Brad Bestic said. “This year was my first year coaching at Knoch, but I could see the difference in that kid from Day 1.

“He gets out on the field and goes to work. He has incredible drive.”

Batting third in the Knoch lineup, Sutton hit .297 this spring with 17 runs scored, 13 RBI, six doubles and two triples. He drew 10 walks in 74 plate appearances.

Sutton is playing Florida Travel Baseball this summer, competing in tournaments up and down the East Coast, primarily in Georgia and the Carolinas.

“We're playing nine tournaments this summer, roughly 60 games or so,” Sutton said. “One of my mentors, Jake Herrit, died earlier this year. His dad recommended that league to me.

“I gave them a call, went down for a tryout and the rest is history.”

Sutton has not decided on his collegiate destination yet, but is considering Youngstown State, Walsh, Canisius and Slippery Rock University.

“One of Eli's best attributes is the way he works with pitchers,” Bestic said. “He's always communicating with them and helps their game.”

Sutton has had plenty of time to hone that skill.

He began playing organized baseball at age 5 and has been a catcher throughout his career. He does not play any other sport at Knoch.

“I feel powerful behind the plate,” he said. “I get to be part of every play. At that position, I get a chance to oversee it all. I love that.

“I like to think I'm a good leader. I command the field well.”

Tryouts for the Pa. Big 26 team were held on the western and eastern sides of the state. Sutton was one of only two players — Pine-Richland first baseman Tyler Armstrong the other — from the western side to make the team.

“I'm ecstatic,” Sutton said. “My hard work is paying off. I'm excited about this.

'Obviously, I want to play well and win. I've got some buddies on the Maryland team and I would love to beat them.”

As a sidelight to the Big 26 series, each player is assigned a “buddy,” a young child with a mental or physical disability, to spend some time with as part of the weekend activities.

“I've been assigned a young girl and I'm looking forward to that experience,” Sutton said. “I know we're playing a whiffleball game with them one day. It will be fun. I want to make a positive impact there.”

Sutton wants to make a positive impact in a lot of ways, including with Knoch's baseball team next spring.

Bestic has little doubt he will.

“I have a feeling Eli's in for a tremendous senior season with us,” the coach said. “He's a great kid who has all of the intangibles.

“He's a natural leader.”

While his personal statistics are solid, Sutton pays little attention to them.

“All I care about is winning games for my team,” he said.