News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local Interest

June 2, 2012

Post 346 Legion team ready to open season

TERRE HAUTE — For each of the previous five American Legion baseball seasons, members of Wayne Newton Post 346 have been forced to wait on Terre Haute South players to join them because the Braves always advanced beyond the sectional round of the IHSAA tournament.

Not this year.

On Monday, Northview defeated South 4-3 in the Class 4A Northview Sectional championship game to advance to today’s Avon Regional matchup with Roncalli.

That means the 2012 Post 346 team has three Knights — Kodie Girton, T.J. Decker and Connor Pierce — who won’t be making the trip today when it opens its season with a doubleheader at Muncie.

That leaves longtime Wayne Newton manager John Hayes with 13 players, which is fine with him.

“This weekend, everyone’s going to play,” promised Hayes, who is assisted by Mike Sturm and Jerry Judson on the Post 346 coaching staff.

“Muncie’s always a team that will battle you tooth-and-nail. They’ll be a good test for us, I’m sure.”

This year’s version of Post 346 is without slugger/pitcher extraordinaire A.J. Reed, a former South standout and University of Kentucky freshman who has decided to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer.

In 2011, Reed hit .526 with 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in while compiling a 6-0 pitching record to help Wayne Newton finish third in the state finals at Rockport and end up 32-9.

“We’re going to miss him,” Hayes admitted. “You can’t replace a kid like that.”

Still, Hayes likes the group he has returning along with eight newcomers.

“We think we’re going to be pretty good,” he assessed. “A lot of these kids knew each other already. We think our pitching’s going to be pretty decent and we should be able to move the ball… We just have to work on defense and get used to playing together on the infield.”

As was the case for the 2012 high school season, American Legion bats are now required to meet BBCOR .50 standards. BBCOR stands for “Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution.”

What that means is home runs are likely to be down, although that may have happened to Wayne Newton anyway because of the absence of Reed.

“We’re going to have to do the little things this year,” Hayes emphasized, “to make ourselves a good baseball team.”

Hayes hopes the returning Daniel Marlow (.397 last season), Girton (.393), Bryan Nacke (.374), Scott West (.314) and Preston Tofaute (.314) can continue to improve and make up for the loss of Reed.

Leading returning pitchers include Girton (6-1 last season), Nacke (4-2) and West (3-2).

“We knew we weren’t getting Reed back [even though he is eligible age-wise],” Hayes told the Tribune-Star. “We’ve love to have had him, but he’ll be where he needs to be.

“Our goal always has been and still is to win the state tournament. But you’ve got to get a lot of breaks and play good baseball to get there.”

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