As cousins and close friends, Joe Stolpa and Anthony Bills always have had a solid connection.

As cousins and close friends, Joe Stolpa and Anthony Bills always have had a solid connection.

The two again have taken that connection to the baseball field as they comprise the double-play combination for the Don Gentile American Legion Post 532G baseball team.

Bills was a standout shortstop for Franklin Heights High School and Stolpa played the same position for Westland. Bills has remained at shortstop for the Legion team, with Stolpa moving to second base.

Both graduated last month.

Once summer baseball ends, they hope to remain together as each will attend Rio Grande in the fall. Bills will receive a scholarship, with Stolpa hoping to join the baseball team as a walk-on.

"Anthony is going to Rio Grande and I am pretty confident that I can walk on there and can play ball at the collegiate level with my cousin," Stolpa said. "That would be sweet."

"Joe has a big shot to make it," Bills said. "That would be really nice to be able to play together."

Bills led Franklin Heights in hitting this spring with a ..432 average. He drove in nine runs and added four doubles, two triples and a home run. He was honorable mention all-OCC-Capital Division.

Bills has shined defensively this summer and has displayed his spring form at times at the plate, highlighted by two hits and three RBI in a 13-9 loss to Bexley Post 430A on June 18.

For Westland in the spring, Stolpa batted .299 with six doubles, a triple and 11 RBI.

"They're a very good double-play combo," Post 532G coach Greg Burke said. "Joe Stolpa has as good a glove as Anthony, but Anthony's arm is a little bit stronger. Those two can really throw the leather around out there on the middle infield."

The two began playing baseball together in the Westland Youth Athletic Association. They have maintained that solid connection in previous summers, playing together in various travel leagues. They joined forces last summer playing for a Franklin Heights team before teaming up to join the Post 532G team this summer.

Post 532G was 1-6 heading into its game against Worthington Post 239A last Thursday.

Against Grove City Post 164A last Tuesday, Post 532G fell behind 5-0 before staging a comeback, only to fall 7-4.

Mike Jarrell went the distance for Post 532G in a 7-1 loss to Hilliard Post 614A last Monday.

Jordan Knight of West Jefferson turned in a solid performance on the mound, pitching 8 2/3 innings in a 3-2 nine-inning loss to Columbus Post 82 on June 19.

"I really don't have at this point a true banger," Burke said. "I don't have that threat, that kid that can get up there to hit it out. We're all kind of singles and doubles gap hitters. Pitching-wise, defensively, we can play with anybody. We will compete. We're a pretty good defensive team. Our pitchers have been keeping us in games. We just have to start hitting the baseball."

•Post 532W has shown steady improvement, according to coach Mike Simms.

Post 532W was 0-9 heading into its game against Gahanna Post 797A last Thursday.

After struggling at the plate for most of the season, 532W's offense came alive in a 14-5 loss to Post 614A last Tuesday.

Brandon King took the loss in a 5-0 decision against Post 82 last Monday. Post 532W dropped a 5-2 decision to Southway Post 144A on June 19.

Lucas Pencek and recent addition John Slagle, a junior, teamed up for a solid pitching effort for Post 532W.

"It was the same old story," Simms said. "We have the defense and the pitching is really coming around, but we're still struggling with the bats."

Simms said King, Estelyon Martinez and Kevin Simms, his son, have been the team's leading hitters.

"We only have about three guys hitting the ball. We need to get all nine of them going," coach Simms said.