By JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Kokomo Post 6 American Legion baseball senior manager Don Andrews has an unorthodox way of looking at his team’s 15-13 regular season record.
Too many wins in those 28 games would mean his team didn’t play a tough enough schedule. A lopsided number in the loss column would indicate too rigorous a slate of games. Success, in his mind, isn’t measured in a large number of wins or high winning percentage, necessarily.
“We make it a point to schedule as hard a schedule as we possibly can accomplish, that way when we get to the postseason we’re ready to play against the very best teams,” Andrews said. “… I don’t think our schedule is ever going to be too strong with the talent that we have in the Kokomo area. But we schedule the way we do for a reason, and that’s to get ready for the postseason.”
The Sixers will get their first chance of seeing how the competition prepared them for the postseason in tonight’s American Legion Sectional opener against county foe Greentown Post 317, which enters sectional play with a 2-10 record. First pitch at CFD Investments Stadium in Highland Park is slated for 7 p.m.
Post 6 defeated Post 317 10-0 in both of the teams’ regular season meetings. Andrews was quick to throw those results out the window, feeling they have little meaning now that the postseason is here.
“There’s more at stake,” he said. “We obviously know each other very well. My biggest concern is that our boys are too overconfident, and I talked to them about that at practice [Wednesday] night and will do so again before the game [tonight]. We will stack our lineup just like we would in any sectional or tournament game so that we give ourselves the best chance to win.”
For Post 317, fielding its first squad since 2003 has been about seeing good competition in the summer, much like the goal that Post 6 sets forth each season.
“I think it’s been great for us,” Post 317 coach Nick Sale said. He’s also Eastern High School’s varsity baseball coach. “We have most of our guys from Eastern on the team, so it’s helped us from a developmental standpoint. It’s been huge, especially, for some of our younger guys who are looking to contribute to our school program down the road. We’ve liked Legion baseball from the standpoint of getting to face better competition and better pitching. We had the chance to play very good teams from Lafayette, Logansport, Kokomo, Crawfordsville — all of these teams who have players 19 [years of age] and under.”
For the most part, Sale’s Post 317 team is comprised of players who will be juniors and sophomores when school starts in the fall, putting them behind the eight ball experience-wise this season. One of the things he’s tried to instill in his team is playing with confidence in order to avoid falling behind in games due to giving up multiple runs in one inning. That happened early in both of the squad’s regular season matchups with Post 6.
“We just need to avoid those small errors that lead to three- or four-run outbursts,” Sale said. “Our pitchers have thrown strikes for the most part all summer long. So, defensively we need to hang in there, and offensively we need to move some runners around and try to make them work a little bit, which they haven’t had to do the last couple times we’re played them. So, if we can hang in there and put some pressure on them, we’ll see what happens.”
Damon Prater (3-0, 4.47 ERA) will start on the hill for Post 6. Taylor Shallenberger or Derek Durkes will draw the start for Post 317, depending on Sale’s game-day decision.
The winner of tonight’s contest will advance to Friday’s winner’s bracket game against Richmond Post 65 (18-7) at 11 a.m.
“We have not played Richmond, but from what I understand they are very good, and always are,” Andrew said.
The winner of Game 2 will advance to the championship round, while the losers of Game 1 and Game 2 will play an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m.
The first championship game is slated to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday. A second game, if needed, will follow at 5 p.m.
The top two teams from the Kokomo Sectional will advance to the seeded regional round, which will be hosted by Plymouth Post 27 at Bill Nixon Field next week.