TERRE HAUTE —
For Terre Haute’s Wayne Newton Post 346, its tradition in American Legion baseball is well-documented.
There have been seven state championships, including 2012 and 2010, and that’s just since John Hayes became its manager. Since 1951, it’s captured 12 state titles.
For the rest of this week, Post 346 will shoot for Nos. 8 and 13 respectively when it competes in the five-team, double-elimination state tournament at Benner Field in St. Leon, near Cincinnati. St. Leon Post 464 also will be Wayne Newton’s first opponent at 7:30 p.m. today, following the Crawfordsville vs. Princeton matchup at 4.
“This is one of our goals every year — to win the state championship,” Hayes said this week.
Wayne Newton (34-10) earned the regional crown Sunday by slipping past Floyds Knobs 10-9 in 10 innings at Terre Haute North High School’s Don Jennings Field.
“Our pitching was good and our defense was pretty good,” Hayes reflected. “Our hitting wasn’t as good as I thought it should be.”
Meanwhile, St. Leon (24-4-1) was outslugging Crawfordsville 17-12 Sunday to win the Lafayette Regional championship Sunday and earn its way into the state finals, which it would have been in anyway because it’s the tourney host.
Hayes admitted he knows little about St. Leon’, other than its manager is Jake Stenger and it defeated Wayne Newton during the 2011 state finals.
“They’ll be a good club,” Hayes predicted. “Their kids always play hard.”
Hayes prefers to concentrate on his own squad instead of the opponents. “Overall, we’re playing pretty well right now,” he noted.
Its leading hitters include Cody Brock (.389, 15 doubles, four home runs, 26 runs batted in), Zach Milam (.364, 41 runs, 31 RBIs, 11 stolen bases), Sam Wolf (.354, 12 doubles, two homers, 27 RBIs), Preston Tofaute (.354), Cody Thornton (.336, 32 runs, 15 steals), Connor Pierce (.333), Pete Lannoo (.322) and Jacob Johnson (.316, 14 steals).
Hayes said he wasn’t sure who would start on the mound for Wayne Newton tonight, but some of his top pitchers have been Damon Olds (9-0, 1.64 earned-run average, 94 strikeouts), T.J. Decker (9-1, 1.62), Austin Hicks (7-3, 3.50) and Brock (2-1, 3.13).
“We’re going to have to continue to get good pitching [in order to capture another state title],” the veteran manager emphasized. “We’ll need good defense and we’ll need to hit the ball. And we’ll need to do the little things.”
An interesting side note is that Post 346 does not need to win the state championship to advance to the Great Lake Regional on Aug. 8-12 because it will serve as this year’s tourney host at North High School. So if Post 346 does claim the state title, the state runner-up also will move on to the national regional.
American Legion state finals
At St. Leon
4 p.m. — Game 1: Crawfordsville Byron Cox Post 72 vs. Princeton Post 25
7:30 — Game 2: Wayne Newton Post 346 vs. St. Leon Post 464
4 p.m. — Game 3: Wayne Newton-St. Leon winner vs. Bristol Charles Harker Post 143
7:30 — Game 4: Crawfordsville-Princeton loser vs. Wayne Newton-St. Leon loser
Noon — Game 5: Crawfordsville-Princeton winner vs. Game 3 winner
3:30 p.m. — Game 6: Game 4 loser vs. Game 3 loser
7 — Game 7: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 winner
1 p.m. — Game 8: Championship game
About 4 — Game 9: “If necessary” championship game