The Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball team enters each season with high expectations.
Post 283 uses its regular-season games in preparation for the District 8 tournament and, hopefully, the state tournament. This summer is no exception for coach Chris Weber's team.
Second-seeded Post 283 opened the district tournament last Sunday with an 18-1 win over seventh-seeded Logan Post 78. Lancaster Post 11 is the top seed in the eight-team tournament.
Post 283 played host to third-seeded Athens last Monday in a semifinal. Post 283 entered the game 32-7 overall.
"Everybody knows everybody, and that's why you play the season to get a good seed and have a home game," Weber said. "You should be able to take care of business."
Post 11 played fourth-seeded Meigs Post 128 last Monday in the other winners bracket semifinal. The winners bracket final is slated for today.
"It's two good teams," Weber said of his team and Post 11. "They're going to have to beat us to win it."
Post 11 and Post 283 split two games during the regular season. Post 283 won 8-4 on June 11 and Post 11 won 18-1 in seven innings June 26.
Both teams finished the regular season 12-2 in District 8, with Post 11 earning the top seed after winning a tiebreaker, according to Weber. Post 283 saw its chances of receiving the top seed slip after a 13-10 loss at Post 128 on July 14.
Post 283 appeared to have set up its pitching rotation entering the tournament. Evan Schafer, who earned the win against Post 78, has emerged as the ace.
Andy Mix and Taylor Day were expected to split time on the mound against Post 21. Jared Meyer and Chet Powell round out the rotation.
"Whoever is hot, that's who I'm going to look to first," Weber said."This is a production business. It's not my job to make them happy with playing time or anything like that. If they make me happy, they'll play more and the way to do that is produce. This isn't Little League ball, this is Legion ball and you have to produce to make things happen. You have to be able to do what you're called upon to do."
Post 283 also shined at the plate as it entered the tournament with a .420 average. Matt Lott was hitting a team-leading .506.
"Offensively, this team is a juggernaut, but pitching wins championships," Weber said. "We have 11 capable arms, but they're just going to have to raise their level of play, too."
In its win over Post 78, Schafer earned the win, pitching four solid innings. Leadoff batter Matt Pantano had three hits.
"We're a better team when Matt is on his game in the leadoff spot," Weber said. "When he's on, we're tough to beat because he's going to hit or walk his way on. He's done a great job in the leadoff spot."
Ninth-place batter Bryan Rudolph had two hits, including his eighth home run of the season. Jared Whittington had a home run and a double.
"If we play our game and our pitchers throw strikes, we'll be OK," Weber said.
"That was the key (against Post 78). I told them that anybody who walks two in an inning is done.I'm not sitting around watch-ing pitchers walk hitters and lose games scoring 10 runs. That's ridiculous.
"It's a matter of pitchers making pitches and fielders making plays. Hitting-wise, I'm not terribly concerned. We should hit whomever we see, but it's going to come down to pitching and defense. That doesn't put any pressure on anybody. That's baseball at any level. Our pitchers need to throw strikes and if our defense makes plays, we'll be fine."