The Jefferson City Jays were certainly gracious hosts last year in the Capital City Baseball Invitational.
That wasn't a good thing, as the Jays went 0-3 in the two-day event.
But it's a new year with a new attitude.
"Obviously confidence level is big in high school athletics and our kids are playing with some confidence," Jays coach Brian Ash said as Jefferson City prepares to host seven other teams in the annual event starting today at Vivion Field and the American Legion Sports Complex.
The Jays, who are off to an 8-1 start to the season, will open against Eureka (3-2) at noon at Vivion Field.
"So far this year, defensively, pitching it's been much more improved," Ash said. "A lot of that has to do with that extra year of experience from these guys who are playing."
The Invitational will feature area teams in each of the four first-round games.
The 2:30 p.m. game at Vivion will pit defending Invitational champion Blair Oaks (2-0) against Rockhurst (5-0).
"We hope that we can iron out some of the kinks and go in there and compete and maybe steal a couple of victories or maybe catch lightning in a bottle two years in a row," Blair Oaks coach Harv Antle said.
The Falcons, who defeated eventual Class 4 state champion Rockwood-Summit in the semifinals last year on a no-hitter by Kyler Maxey, know they'll have their hands full against Rockhurst, ranked No. 3 in Class 5.
"We know we're going to see good competition," Antle said. "Every team in there is very good. It'll certainly be a challenge for us."
The Helias Crusaders (4-2), who finished seventh last year, will open against Blue Springs (3-2) at 2:30 p.m. at the American Legion Sports Complex.
"This is one of the toughest events we play in all year," Helias coach Chris Wyrick said.
The Crusaders are still looking for their first Invitational title. They've finished second twice.
"You want to win at least two games," Wyrick said. "If we can compete in all three games, do our best, if we can do that, things should take care of themselves."
The other first-round game will pit Invitational newcomer Fatima (4-1) against Hickman (5-2). That game will start at noon at the American Legion Sports Complex.
"Hickman is a pretty strong hitting team," Fatima coach Scott Kilgore said. "That's a Class 5 school. It's going to be tough competition for us."
Kilgore said the Comets will attempt to treat the Invitational like any other game.
"We want to just go in and compete and do the best we can," he said. "That's what we try to do every night."
A couple of wins would be nice to go along with that.
"I'll be happy with that," Kilgore said. "It's definitely realistic."
Wyrick believes Fatima and Blair Oaks won't have a difficult time competing against the bigger schools this weekend.
"They are both loaded with experienced players and deep pitching," he said. "They are going to make it tough on anybody they play."
Ash said the Comets are a welcome addition to the Invitational field.
"Traditionally speaking they are going to be solid," he said. "Last year shows anybody can win it. I don't think anybody thought Blair Oaks would have a chance. They played awesome baseball and won it against some of the bigger schools.
"In baseball you can't really look at the size of the school. If you have a couple of arms that can absolutely pitch it, you've got some guys who can put the ball in play. In baseball the size of the school really doesn't matter."
The semifinals in the winner's (Vivion Field) and loser's brackets (American Legion Sports Complex) will be played today as well, with the trophy games scheduled for Saturday.