I guess they’re going to have to put the upgrades for the sign in front of Washington Post 218 on the fast track.
While at the Senior Legion Zone 1 Tournament at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field, I heard of plans to honor all four of the post’s state championship teams.
Now there are five state winners to be listed.
That’s because the Washington Post 218 Senior Legion team won the state title Saturday in Sedalia, beating Creve Coeur in the winner-take-all game, 9-1.
That makes two of the three Missouri Department baseball titles which have come back to Washington this year. Post 218 also won the Freshman Legion State Tournament a couple of weeks ago.
To say this has been a trail-blazing year for Post 218 would be a massive understatement.
Washington’s last Senior Legion state title came in 1989. The last state title for any team prior to this season was in 2005, when the Post 218 Juniors not only won the state crown, but also claimed the Mid-States Region championship. And the only other title came in 1957.
Washington had never won the Freshman Legion state title before this season, but surged through to claim the title. Post 218 had finished runner-up in the inaugural Freshman Legion state tournament to Ballwin and had lost to Eureka two seasons ago.
Overall, it was a great year for the Ninth District. This marks the first time a Ninth District team has won the Senior Legion State Tournament since Wentzville Post 323 did it in 1990.
Daniel Boone was the state runner-up in the Junior Legion State Tournament to Blue Springs Post 499 Fike. Daniel Boone is based out of Augusta Post 262 and one player, Justin Horace, goes to Borgia.
The Ninth District is one of the biggest in the state on an annual basis, so why has it been so long since a district team has won a state Senior Legion title?
I used to have a theory that it took so much effort for a team just to win the district title in the days where there were 12 or more teams that there just wasn’t enough left at the zone or state levels.
Thanks to changes in the brackets which give bigger districts more representation at the zone level, it’s not as brutal for a team from the Ninth or 10th (St. Louis County) to be able to advance through any more. While Washington won the Zone 1 Tournament over another Ninth District team, St. Charles, Creve Coeur did the same in Zone 4 against Ballwin.
While the Ninth District was down to just eight teams participating in the North and South district tournaments this year, perhaps there’s another factor which has helped. For the past several seasons, Ninth District games all have been played using wood bats.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but once Washington batters started using metal bats again, the ball started to fly out of the park a little easier. In four state games, Washington batters hit four home runs. Post 218 had similar success at the zone tournament.
“I don’t know” said Matt Jones, who belted home runs both at the zone and state events. “I use everything I’ve got. I swing hard and hope it goes somewhere.”
Jones and Trent Leimkuehler homered both at the zone and state tournaments. The other home runs came from a variety of different players.
At the zone tournament, Leimkuehler didn’t think there was much of a transition factor between wood and metal.
“It was a little difficult, but I don’t think it was that hard,” Leimkuehler said. “I think we all play with them during high school, so we had that down. It’s easy to come back with metal bats. Everyone has a lot more confidence. You’re not scared to break them and you have a little more pop behind that.”
Jack Kopmann hit a home run at the zone tournament. Sam Deschenes and Mike McGilvray blasted shots in the state tournament.
That’s five of the nine regulars in the lineup who hit home runs just in the last two tournaments.
The pitching also has been impressive. Any time you’ve got someone the caliber of Brendan Feldmann waiting to throw in your fourth game, you’ve got a deep staff.
A good part of the 2012 Post 218 lineup is new to Senior Legion action. Three of the four infielders just came up from last year’s Junior Legion team. Only Jack Kopmann at third is a returner.
In the outfield, McGilvray has been a fixture in center, but Deschenes and Dustin Howard didn’t play on the 2011 state runner-up team.
Behind the plate, Leimkuehler is a returning player while Jones played for the Post 218 Juniors last summer.
The pitching staff is the one area where veterans dominate. Brendan Kleekamp, Cody Gardner and Feldmann all were on the team last summer. Tony Helfrich, Luke Hasenjaeger, Zach Pointer and Andrew Sumner pitched for the Juniors.
David McNeal, who has played some for the Senior Legion team this summer, was one of the Junior Legion team’s starters.
Washington might have been the favorite at the state tournament this year, but it faces a new journey in the regional tournament. At the Mid-States Regional, it will have to open up against the host team from New Orleans.
We’ll see how Post 218 responds to this challenge Thursday night.