Historic season ends at regional
Despite setting a program record with 56 wins and finishing fifth in the Great Lakes regional tournament, Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball coach Chris Weber was disappointed with the way the season ended.
"I'm mentally and physically exhausted," Weber said. "I stared at the ceiling all night (Aug. 11) wondering what I could've done differently to have a better outcome. When you lose two close ones like that, your mind just keeps replaying the situations."
Post 283 lost to host Midland (Mich.) Post 346 1-0 in the early session Aug. 11 to fall into the losers bracket and then was ousted when it lost to Moline, Ill., 5-4 in 12 innings in the evening session.
Post 283 finished 56-6 and became just the second team from District 8 to win a state championship since Legion baseball's inception in the 1920s.
"Our goal wasn't to come here and go 1-2, so we're not happy to come home right now," Weber said. "However, there was nothing negative about our season and our effort all season. We didn't leave anything in the tank, that's for sure. We emptied the tank."
After winning its opener 2-0 over the Madison (Wis.) Impact on Aug. 9, bad weather in Midland, Mich., forced postponement of play Aug. 10.
The next day against Midland, which has advanced to the World Series in four of the past five seasons, Dan Sexton pitched a two-hitter. However, Post 283 was limited to one hit by Midland's Chad Mayle. That hit was a first-inning single by Jacob Horsley.
"We're used to playing almost every single day," Weber said. "We had a week off before the regional then we had a rain day here. You can't simulate great pitching in the (batting) cage and our hitting just wasn't where we have been all season.
"Part of that is the competition. We played three great opponents. In May and June, you can outpitch mistakes or outhit mistakes. It's magnified here. When you play this type of competition, it's much more difficult to overcome mistakes and we made some."
Against Midland, Post 283 was the beneficiary of three errors, a walk and a hit batter. But Weber said three baserunning blunders gave away the scoring opportunities.
"Danny threw his butt off, a two-hitter against the defending regional champion," Weber said. "There's a smaller margin for error at this level and Danny was fantastic and we didn't back him."
Against Moline, Post 283 rallied from a 3-1 deficit by scoring the tying runs in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single from Charles Schmidt and an RBI grounder by Joe Matalon.
Post 283 got out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the top of the seventh but couldn't win it in the bottom half.
Moline scored the go-ahead run on a two-out wild pitch from Schmidt.
Post 283 had a chance to tie or win in the bottom of the 12th after Zach Beaver had a one-out single and Shane Snyder hit a two-out double, but Schmidt fouled out down the first-base line to end the season.
"We were one of the top 40 teams to make regionals and we finished fifth in our region," Weber said. "We've gone 98-11 the last two seasons. It's a tribute to having talented and quality kids. Our success is based on that, our coaching staff and our post all being on the same page and wanting the same results, having the same goals."
Weber also is proud of sending players on to college. The number of former players who have or will play in college has grown to 51 in his seven seasons.
"It's important to understand that through baseball, we hope to give our players the best opportunities to continue playing in college and, more importantly, earn a degree," Weber said. "Let's face it, sooner or later no matter who you are, your life will continue after baseball. I'm so proud of our kids and that our post is willing to do things financially and personally to help these kids succeed on and off the diamond. If they get noticed at a tournament, it could lead to scholarship money and help get that kid into a college education."
Post 283 expects to return nine players next season. Eligible to return are Watkins Memorial products Jordan Miller, Schmidt, Dan Sexton, Rob Sexton and Tony Winters, as well as Devon Fisk (Pickerington Central), Kyle Montell (Pickerington North) and Canal Winchester products Chris Angle and Isac Pifer.