It’s not exactly home, but the Washington Post 218 Junior Legion team is thrilled to make due with St. Francis Borgia Regional High School as its host facility for this week’s Zone 1 Tournament.
Washington (25-3) has had to shift about a mile south from its normal home at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field due to Washington also hosting the Freshman Legion Missouri State Tournament at the same time.
Many of Washington’s players are very familiar with the Borgia turf as they play for the Knights. Washington’s Junior Legion team has hosted games at Borgia before, most recently during last year’s Ninth District Tournament.
This year’s tournament consists of Ninth District representatives Washington Post 218 and Sullivan Post 18 along with defending state champion Jefferson City Post 5 and the Kirksville Redbirds.
“I do think our zone will produce a worthy champion either way and represent us well in the state tournament,” Washington Post 218 Manager Kent Getsee said. “These games get tougher as we climb the ladder and this weekend will not be easier than the week before, so there is some very good American Legion baseball to be played in Washington this weekend with our tournament and the Freshman State Tournament simultaneously.”
The first-round matchups are Jefferson City Post 5 against Sullivan Thursday at 3 p.m. and Washington Post 218 against the Kirksville Redbirds at 5:30 p.m.
“I think Sullivan and Jeff City are going to have a heck of a game,” Getsee said. “According to my research, Jeff City has been scuffling a little bit and Sullivan is a good team. So, I think they’re both going to have to put together a solid game for a win. We’re in the same boat. With zero knowledge of Kirksville we need to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. They beat out three other teams, so we’re expecting Kirksville to be a solid team with at least one or two good arms to be aware of.”
The second-round starts at noon Friday with the first-round winners facing each other. The first-round losers play at 2:30 p.m. with the noon loser and the 2:30 p.m. winner meeting in the losers’ bracket final at 5 p.m.
The tournament concludes Saturday with the championship series starting at 1 p.m.
The winner advances to the Missouri State Tournament next week in Warrensburg.
There is one big change for Washington and Sullivan. All games from this point forward can be played with metal bats. Ninth District games were played with wood bats. That means, there will be a little bit of adjustment for the Zone 1 Tournament and beyond if either team makes it that far.
Washington won both the Ninth District regular season title with an 11-1 league record (had tiebreaker over Sullivan) and the Ninth District Tournament title with an 11-1 win last Thursday at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field.
Sullivan Post 18 (17-5) advanced as the second-place team in the Ninth District regular season. Sullivan also went 11-1 in league play this season with the lone loss coming to Washington. Union Post 297 was the team to beat Washington.
Jefferson City Post 5 is the Eighth District representative. Post 5 is the defending state champion and finished second in the recent Blue Springs Wood Bat Junior Legion Tournament.
The Kirksville Redbirds came from the District 1-2 Tournament which consisted of Trenton, Moberly and Princeton.
Kirksville was the top seed for the event in Trenton and opened against the host team. Moberly was seeded second and Trenton was third.
Last year, Jefferson City Post 5 and St. Charles Post 312 advanced from the Zone 1 Tournament. Zone 1 had a bonus entry into the state tournament last season. Other teams in the Zone 1 event in 2017 were host New Haven Post 366 and Moberly Post 6.
Extremely little is known about Washington’s first-round opponent, the Kirksville Redbirds. Media in that part of the state has not covered Junior Legion baseball this season.
Most of the players were on the Kirksville High School team this spring. Borgia defeated Kirksville in the Columbia Tournament this spring, 5-1.
Colton Gillespie was one of the top batters for the high school team, batting .517 during the spring with six doubles, a triple and two home runs.
Kirksville’s high school team went 14-14 this past spring.
Post 5 is the defending state champion and the team carries a 14-8 record into the Zone 1 Tournament. Jefferson City lost 12-9 to Bellevue, Neb., Post 339 East in the championship game of the Blue Springs Junior Legion Wood Bat Tournament.
Post 5 also played in the Washington Memorial Day Weekend Tournament. One of the teams Jefferson City defeated was Union Post 297.
In the championship game against Washington, Post 218 won the title, 7-4.
In that contest, Joe Hackmann held Post 5 to four hits, singles by Parker Bax, Jaden Hoskins, Alex Grellner and Jacob Stegemann.
Gavin Bernskoetter started and took the loss. Jacob Rademan and Grellner also pitched against Post 218.
Jefferson City is the only District 8 Junior Legion team this season.
Hackmann has a win over Jefferson City, but also could be playing this week with the Post 218 Seniors in the Ninth District Tournament. Brandon Stahlman has gotten the ball in many of the big games this season, including the Ninth District Tournament championship game against Sullivan.
Levi Weber is in center field and leads off. Top batters include Bryce Mayer, Hackmann, Wil Heggemann and Jack Czeschin. Nick Hellmann does most of the catching for Post 218.
Much of the roster of Sullivan’s Junior Legion team played in the state tournament last year as part of the Freshman Legion program.
Post 18 has a potent batting lineup with Joshua Wiese, Andrew Branson, Joshua Earney, Blayten Nolie, Braden Carey, Collin Immekus, Ethan Kackley, Cooper Beckett and the Bells, Andrew and Alec, all playing roles.
Sullivan will have to do without its big-game pitcher, Garrett Juergens, for the first two games. Juergens also usually bats leadoff. He is under a suspension for being ejected in the Ninth District Tournament championship game.