The Pickerington Post 283 American Legion baseball team defeated Athens Post 29 11-2 on July 22 to capture its fourth consecutive District 8 championship.
Pickerington advanced to the state tournament and played Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 in the first round of the eight-team, double-elimination event July 30 at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
"The goal for us is to play our best every time we take the field and if we do that, district championships will follow and we'll be competitive in the state tournament," said coach Chris Weber, whose team was 31-7 entering state. "Often times, people tend to think, 'What do we need to do to win?' Baseball is pretty simple. If you pitch well and play strong defense and get some timely hitting, you're right there."
Post 283 put all of those pieces together in the district tournament, as it won the title for the ninth time since 2003.
Pickerington outscored its three foes 43-3, as it also beat Meigs Post 39 17-1 in the first round July 20 and defeated host Lancaster Post 11 15-0 on July 21 at Beavers Field.
"We didn't make an error in the tournament and we got great pitching from (Bloom-Carroll product) Jacob Newton against Athens, Tyler Magley (Liberty Union) against Lancaster and Johnny Putnam (Liberty Union) against Meigs," Weber said. "We walked just a handful in three games. We've worked real hard on hitting for a few weeks and it paid dividends. We're starting to get better there and I think we're peaking at the right time."
The Beverly/Lowell-Pickerington winner plays Prospect Post 368 or Troy Post 43 on Thursday, July 31. The first-round winners will play and the first-round losers will play.
Others in the field are Galion Post 243, Harrison Yeager Post 199, Wayne County Post 68 and defending champion Napoleon Post 300. The championship game is Sunday, Aug. 3.
The state champion advances to play in the Great Lakes Regional on Aug. 7-11 in Terre Haute, Ind. Napoleon also won the Great Lakes Regional last season.
"We're familiar with some of the teams and I think Napoleon is probably the favorite again, but that doesn't mean anything," Weber said. "You play the game right and you play well and you have a chance. I think any team in the field can beat the other. That's the way the game is."
Pickerington swept Beverly/Lowell 9-4 and 6-2 on opening day May 26. Pickerington lost to Napoleon 6-1 on June 27 and had its scheduled game against Troy canceled.
According to Weber, first baseman Doug Connor (Watkins Memorial) led the team in hitting at district and catcher Derek Helbing (Watkins Memorial) has swung the bat well lately.
"I was struggling a little, but I'm finally hitting well," Connor said. "We started working on more hitting drills and my backside hitting has come in handy.
"I'm keeping my hands inside the ball more now and it's paying off."
Weber has been pleased with the offensive consistency of second baseman Tyler Makuch (Liberty Union), shortstop Chris Brake (St. Charles), third baseman Jordan Grubb (Pickerington North) and designated hitter/corner infielder Steven Asbury (Watkins Memorial). He also said outfielder Adam Snyder (Liberty Union) has been strong of late as well.