The Johnstown American Legion Post 254 baseball team was bounced from the District 6 tournament after two consecutive losses.

The Johnstown American Legion Post 254 baseball team was bounced from the District 6 tournament after two consecutive losses.

The Hawks were playing their best baseball of the season entering the event, but lost to Marysville Post 79A 9-5 in the first round, then fell to Marion Post 584 in the next round after losing a three-run lead in the ninth.

For the Post 254 players, the feelings were mixed. There was disappointment in the postseason performance, but the experience of summer baseball yielded significant improvement.

"Obviously, the main goal is to win the district tournament and go to state," Johnstown-Monroe High School graduate Cory Keesee.

"It shows you how good baseball in central Ohio really is. Anybody can win on any given day. But for us to get a chance to get better in the summer is huge."

Keesee will head next month to Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W. Va., where he hopes to be a fixture in the rotation as a dominant left-hander.

While preparing for college baseball is beneficial for him, other players are looking forward to using the Legion experience to improve before the high school season starts next spring. Jake Hollis used summer baseball to recover from reconstructive shoulder surgery, gearing up to pitch his senior season for the Johnnies.

"Being able to get back in the mound and pitch against that kind of competition was great," Hollis said. "To pitch complete games, I feel really good. The Legion team has given me the ability to get back to where I once was."

Legion baseball can offer college coaching staffs the opportunity to evaluate talent. Johnstown coach Don Carter said that because the high school season coincides with many college baseball schedules, summer is often the only time for college coaches to travel around Ohio to see prospects in action.

Carter believes that, Hollis is one of many that can benefit from a good showing this summer after the player missed his junior season at Johnstown.

Legion ball also can be valuable as high school coaches determine potential starters for the next spring. In Carter's case, Post 254 coach Josh Hann used to be part of his staff.

"That's what we want as high school coaches -- to see our kids playing in the summertime," Carter said. "It shows that they have a desire to play the game. Anytime you can play the game as much as possible, it betters your skills. The high school season just warms them up, then we cut them loose for summer when they should be playing their best."

As Keesee leaves, he has no doubt that his underclassmen teammates on the Post 254 team will benefit from facing superior competition at the Legion level.

"You see everybody's ace every day," he said

"A ball that is a base hit in high school becomes a routine ground ball. That's especially helpful for the younger guys. They are going to see the improvement when they take the field for high school ball next spring."