Knoch’s Sutton part of Team Pennsylvania in upcoming Big 26 Classic

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Thursday, July 22, 2021 | 5:38 PM


Eli Sutton has one year of high school baseball remaining.

The all-section catcher and rising senior at Knoch is among the players to watch in the WPIAL next spring. He also is one to watch this weekend as a member of Team Pennsylvania for the eighth annual Big 26 Classic at FNB Field in Harrisburg.

“I am ecstatic,” said Sutton, who was selected for the team at a Western tryout last month at Seton Hill. “This weekend is something I have never been able to experience before.”

The Big 26 makes its return this year after the 2020 event was canceled because of covid.

Pennsylvania will face a team from Maryland in a three-game series set to begin at 7 p.m. Friday.

The teams then will meet in a doubleheader Saturday at 11 a.m.

Pennsylvania leads the all-time series, 4-3.

Players will have the chance to show their talents in front of scouts at a pro-style combine at 1 p.m. Friday.

Team Pennsylvania was to meet for the first time Thursday.

Sutton, who bats and throws right-handed, said he’s looking forward to playing Maryland as six teammates from his summer baseball team, Florida Travel Baseball Mid-Atlantic 17U (2022 grads), are on the Maryland roster.

“I also have a few summer teammates with me on the Pennsylvania team, so it is going to be a fun and competitive game,” Sutton said.

FTB team members also come from New York and Virginia. A couple of pitchers are from Canada.

Sutton has traveled up and down the East Coast this summer after his season with Knoch ended in mid-May.

He estimated he and his teammates have played close to 40 summer games with a final tournament in September before heading to Florida to compete in October.

“Eli deserves this and more just based on the work he’s put in over the past couple of years,” Knoch baseball coach Brad Bestic said. “I couldn’t be more excited for him. I know the other members of the (Knoch) team are really pulling for him, too.”

Sutton also will be a part of the Big 26 Buddy Program, which matches special needs children, teens and young adults with a player.

The program kicked off Thursday with a picnic and a Wiffle Ball game, and the buddies also will be introduced with the players during pregame ceremonies.

“I can’t wait to make a connection with my buddy, and I think that is an awesome opportunity to create a friendship I hope will last a lifetime,” Sutton said.

Pennsylvania swept three games from Maryland during the last PA Big 26 series in 2019.

Freeport grad Jarrett Heilman and South Fayette grad Ryan McGuire were the only two WPIAL products on that team.

Sutton hopes for a repeat performance of the sweep two years ago. He will represent the WPIAL along with Pine-Richland rising senior and first baseman Tyler Armstrong.

“I’ve known Tyler for a while. We’ve competed against each other a few times on rival summer ball organizations,” Sutton said. “He’s a great dude and solid player. I can’t wait to see what he does in these games.”

Armstrong, also a rising senior, earned Section 1-6A honorable mention honors for the Rams as in infielder in 2021.

Sutton transitioned into summer baseball after a strong high school season. He came on offensively at the end of the season and was 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored in Knoch’s 3-2 WPIAL Class 4A first-round loss to Quaker Valley.

“I hit a hot streak at the end of the high school season, and I was happy that extended into the summer,” said Sutton, who also started as a freshman in 2019.

“Losing the 2020 (high school) season kind of motivated me, and I put in a lot of work for this year. I am hitting in the mid .300s right now. Offensively, I’ve been performing pretty well, and defensively, I’ve been solid. I wish I would’ve had more high school games to show it off a little more, but I am glad I was able to continue to play well into the summer.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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