Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball coach Chris Weber wants his team to take micro-management to a new level as it prepares to defend its state championship.
Post 283 cruised through the Region 6 tournament, outscoring its three opponents 30-8 and defeating Athens Post 21 10-4 in the championship game July 17 at Beavers Field in Lancaster. Post 283 won its third consecutive district/region title and became the first of eight teams to punch its ticket into the state tournament, which will be July 29-Aug. 2 at Beavers Field.
A 16-hit attack in the final was the latest sign that a more patient approach is taking root and paying dividends.
"You can't really simulate a game situation even with live (batting practice) in a cage or anything else, but we talk a lot about focusing on the process," said Weber, whose team is 33-9 entering a game against the District 8 All-Stars on Wednesday, July 24, in Lancaster. "Nothing else matters. Situations, counts, none of that really matters. It only matters if your thought process lets it."
Chris Brake (SS) had a team-high four hits -- three singles and a double -- for Post 283 in the final. Steve Asbury (DH), Scott Baker (OF), Devon Fisk (P/OF), Jordan Grubb (3B) and Derek Helbing (C) added two hits each.
Baker drew a bases-loaded walk, Helbing lined a two-run single to left field and Fisk added an RBI single in the fourth to erase a 2-0 deficit. Post 283 blew the game open with five runs in the sixth, when after Fisk, Charlie Schmidt (OF) and Doug Connor (1B) singled, Brake was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Asbury and Baker added two-run singles.
"We'd seen their pitching once," Asbury, a senior at Watkins Memorial, said of Post 283's middle-inning rallies. "You start picking up on their routines. (Athens pitchers Alex Staron and reliever Dustin Mullins were) going curveball, curveball, fastball or mixing it up a little bit, and we just sat on the curveball and drove it."
Starter Kyle Montell allowed three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings, and reliever Jake Edwards gave up a run on seven hits in four innings. Edwards allowed three singles in the eighth then got out of the bases-loaded jam.
"Kyle definitely started the momentum for us," said Edwards, a senior at Pickerington North. "I had an off week last week, and it was good to come back tonight and have everything working for me. My pitching coach, Mike Barber, helped me out a lot. He fixed my windup a little bit and that's what helped me out the most."
Post 283 earned the top seed in the tournament and took a first-round bye. It defeated Lancaster Post 11 12-2 in a second-round game July 14 and Athens 8-2 in a semifinal July 15 to earn a day off before the final.
Athens, which finished 15-14, defeated Lancaster 5-3 in the consolation bracket final. That game began July 16, but a lightning delay forced the game to be concluded July 17, about 45 minutes before the championship game began.
Post 283's previous district championships came in 1989, 1994, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Before this season, Ohio American Legion Baseball widened the boundaries of its regions to encompass more teams in areas with fewer Legion teams. There were 12 districts in the state last year, but now there are eight regions.
The state tournament bracket will be determined July 28. Eight teams will compete in a 15-game, double-elimination format. The champion will play in the regional tournament Aug. 8-12 in Terre Haute, Ind.
"I see a lot of promising signs with this team heading into the state tournament," Weber said. "We've preached to the guys to not preconceive what they'll do in their at-bats. You can't do that. This game doesn't let you do that. So they just have to go to the plate with the idea they'll get a good pitch and hit it hard."