Now, the baseball season is really starting to get interesting for our remaining local teams.
We have two Washington Post 218 teams remaining alive in competition with the Juniors going to Joplin for the state tournament this week and the Seniors heading to Moberly for the Zone 1 Tournament.
Both have the chance to extend the season beyond this level if they can win their respective tournaments. The Junior Regional Tournament also takes place in Joplin, with Carthage hosting, and the Senior Legion State Tournament will take place in Sedalia once again.
Add in there the Ninth District all-star games at the Freshman and Junior levels, set to run at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field.
I really like how the Post 218 Junior Legion team approaches the game. Washington was able to win the Zone 1 Tournament in three games, using just three pitchers.
While Washington wasn’t overwhelmingly dominant in any of the games, Post 218 did what it had to do to win and executed in close game situations.
And the Juniors were able to make the transition from wood to metal bats without too much trouble. More on that later.
The Post 218 Junior Legion coaching contingent features a blend of experience and youth. Phillip Kleekamp has been a part of the Post 218 coaching setup for quite some time. Kent Getsee managed the last Post 218 Junior Legion team to win a state (and regional) title. Cody Gardner pitched for Post 218 last season and has stayed in the program as a coach.
Right now, the Juniors probably have the best chance of any Post 218 team to add to the program’s list of honors.
I felt the Zone 1 Tournament was very competitive. Going in, I felt Pacific had a strong chance of making it to the title game. And Post 320 came close. I believe Cory Cowsert and Chris Jackson did an amazing job with their team this season. Pacific certainly was a fun group to watch play the game.
Jefferson City Post 5 was no pushover either. They played some very good baseball when it was required. They came close to keeping everyone around for a second championship game Sunday. They didn’t give up after a five-run Washington first and Cody Stegeman just got better and better after a 46-pitch first inning. Washington showed skill and poise in holding on to beat that team.
The Washington Post 218 Seniors could extend their consecutive appearance run at the state tournament, but it’s going to take a better effort than we’ve seen lately.
Washington just hasn’t seemed to be crisp lately. In fact, Post 218 hasn’t seemed to play a strong game since the semifinals of the Blue Springs Wood Bat Tournament.
Post 218 has to open play at the Zone 1 Tournament Thursday in Moberly against West, a team it’s lost to twice this past week. Frankly, West is the better team right now and Post 218 should be considered the underdog.
“This was a game that I wish we would have never played because the game really did not mean anything as both teams were moving onto the zone tournament and the game would not affect the zone seeding,” Post 218 Manager Mike Gardner said about Sunday’s Ninth District championship game against West. “We didn’t play with much enthusiasm and West played and acted like it was the seventh game of the World Series. We will move on, work hard in practice, be prepared, and fully committed for our game against them in the Zone Tournament on Thursday.”
It’s not going to be simple though. Post 218 is not going to be able to just go through the motions and expect other teams to crumble at their reputation. It’s going to be hard work to make the season last past the Zone Tournament.
“We have had to fight through a few issues this year and I think that is a good thing,” Gardner said. “I don’t feel like we are complacent or just happy being here and that we have something to prove to everybody. I am confident that we will all pull together, come ready to play every pitch with a passion, and do whatever it takes for us to be successful.”
An added wildcard in the upcoming contest will be metal bats. It’s going to be the first time Post 218 has used the BBCOR bats in quite some time because the Ninth District uses wood bats.
Winning in the first game will be huge for one Ninth District team. The other one will have to fight through the losers’ bracket just to get back.
This zone has no pushovers. Jefferson City Post 5 has to be one of the favorites. They’ve played tough all season long and they beat Washington at the Blue Springs Wood Bat Tournament. West has momentum, Moberly is the host team and Hannibal just came through a tournament to earn its spot.
And, we all remember that tournaments in Moberly have not been kind to Post 218. Washington lost to Macon in the winner-take-all game the last time it played a zone there.
I know Gardner and his staff can get the most out of the team. If they perform to their abilities, a return trip to the state tournament in Sedalia is possible.
Kudos to Jordan Bierbaum and his Post 218 Freshman Legion team. They made a miraculous run through the losers’ bracket of the Ninth District Tournament to celebrate a double of regular season and tournament titles.
Washington fell out in three games at the state tournament after beating host Branson in the opening game. A tournament-changing moment came when Nik Alferman was knocked out with a thrown ball on the bases in the second round against Jackson. That had to shake the team.
Jackson, the last unbeaten team in the tournament, and Glendale, were the only squads to beat Washington and those teams finished highly in the event. Branson came back from its opening-round loss to reach the final four.
Considering the team only had two players back from last year’s state championship team, it was a great year for the Post 218 squad.
OK, now back to the wood versus metal bat discussion.
Kleekamp seems to feel the biggest change between the two bats is in fielding because the ball seems to jump a bit more off the metal bats.
“I was always taught that if you can hit with wood, you can hit with metal,” Kleekamp said. “Hopefully that works for them, too.”
I’ll add in another factor. I think pitchers really see a difference between the two. Pitchers seem to be able to get away with more mistakes against wood bats than metal bats, and that can lead to making more mistakes. Hang a curve against a batter with a wood bat and it’s still just a long fly ball. Hang that same curve against a metal bat hitter and it’s going over the fence.
It seems tougher to play small ball with metal bats, although the good teams still can get the bunts down. It’s almost like comparing National League strategies against American League strategies. The NL always seemed to be moving runners along, stealing bases and being aggressive on the base paths. The AL strategy seemed to wait for the three-run home run.
Condolences to the family and friends of Dominic Gentile. The Warrenton High School graduate recently passed away.
Frank Gentile was athletic director at Warrenton when we started covering sports for what was the Marthasville (now Warren County) Record. He left Warrenton for Holt and still does work for MSHSAA, especially at the state wrestling meet.
I can remember when Dominic signed to play football at Central Missouri. My impression is he was a nice young man from a good family.