Westerville (South) Post 171S player Dillan Cook walked to the plate seconds after teammates Joe Stiltner and Garrett Gillette had hit back-to-back pitches over the left-field fence in a District 12 American Legion baseball game June 18.

Westerville (South) Post 171S player Dillan Cook walked to the plate seconds after teammates Joe Stiltner and Garrett Gillette had hit back-to-back pitches over the left-field fence in a District 12 American Legion baseball game June 18.

"No pressure," a fan shouted to the amusement of those in attendance.

The Southway Post 144A (Central Crossing) pitcher plunked Cook, eliminating the possibility of a third-consecutive home run. But the comment, even as a joke, showed the progress of the Westerville South High School baseball players.

A young squad in the spring -- just three of the 14 players on the Wildcats varsity were seniors while eight were sophomores -- is growing against an American Legion schedule this summer.

"It's a process," coach Mark Williams said. "Immaturity takes you up and down. They can play with anyone, but that is good and bad. It's good when you're playing high-level competition, but it can be bad when you play teams not as skilled. The guys are still learning how to show up and maintain a certain level every day."

They're learning quickly. Post 171S was 7-3 overall and 6-2 in District 12 play before games against Watterson Post 82 last Monday, Franklin Heights Post 98 last Tuesday and Hilliard Davidson Post 614A last Wednesday.

Among its victories was a 14-10 decision over Worthington Post 239 on June 17 that marked Worthington's first loss of the season. That was followed by a 10-5 victory over Post 144 and a doubleheader sweep of Westerville (Central) Post 171C last Saturday (10-0 and 21-4).

Post 171S will play host Monday to Grove City Post 164A and will play Wednesday at (Jerome-Scioto) Post 800.

Post 171S has 15 players -- the 11 non-seniors from the varsity last spring and four players who were on the j.v.

Progress is being made in all facets of the game, but it is really starting to show at the plate.

The Wildcats hit .304 as a team in their 9-16 season. However, the hits were rarely of the power variety. Of their 211 hits, the Wildcats had just 30 doubles and four home runs.

Post 171S has scored at least eight runs in all of its victories and is featuring big hits. Along with the two home runs, Westerville had a six-run inning that included four doubles in the win over Post 144.

"We're working hard on our hitting," Gillette said. "On our off-days, we're coming in and taking two hours of batting practice. We're also doing summer (weight) lifting with the football team. This is a big summer for us. I think it should pay off."

The American Legion schedule also offers Williams a chance to experiment with players at different positions. Nearly everyone has between two and four positions listed beside their name on the team roster. Eight will see time on the mound.

Along with Gillette (P/1B/3B/OF), who will be a senior in the fall, and juniors Stiltner (C/1B) and Cook (2B/SS/P), 171S features varsity players in seniors Austin Parks (3B/P) and Brian Williams (2B/3B/SS/P) and juniors Nate Allen (OF), Mark Hensley (1B/OF), Ben Jones (OF/SS/P), Josh Llaneza (C/OF), Matt Stiltner (2B/3B/OF/P) and Ben Williams (OF/SS/P).

Rounding out the roster are four players who were on the j.v. team in seniors Matt Duffy (C/OF), Alex Lanning (OF/P), Jake Rorabaugh (3B/OF) and Zach Slyman (2B/OF).

"You can really tell this is helping us," Mark Williams said. "This is a higher level of play than what they have played in past summers. I think they started out tight and nervous, but we finally talked to them about just going out there and having fun. They're doing that now and it's paying off."