TERRE HAUTE —
American Legion baseball players from Wayne Newton Post 346 will see some unfamiliar faces today when they begin regional play at Don Jennings Field at Terre Haute North, but also some very familiar ones.
Although the champion and runner-up from the southern sectional that makes up half the tournament field — Floyds Knobs and Madison — are new opponents for the Terre Haute team, the runner-up from its own sectional last week also returns.
That would be a Clinton team that’s proven troublesome for Post 346 and earned the respect of Terre Haute manager John Hayes.
Clinton and Floyds Knobs play at 4 p.m. today, followed by Post 346 against Madison. Today’s winners meet at noon Saturday for the right to advance to Sunday’s championship round, while two other elimination games follow.
Floyds Knobs was a regional participant last season, losing to Post 346 in the championship game. Madison used to be a fixture at the Terre Haute Invitational, but after a managerial change it hasn’t appeared on the Terre Haute schedule lately.
Post 346 beat Clinton twice in sectional play, but neither game was easy. The host team needed an eighth-inning run on Sunday for a 2-1 win that sent Terre Haute to the championship game, then trailed Clinton 4-2 in that game Monday before rallying for nine runs in its final two at-bats.
“If Floyds Knobs overlooks them, we could be playing Clinton again on Saturday,” Hayes noted.
Post 346 (31-10) figures to be the favorite in this tournament thanks to a deep pitching staff — T.J. Decker pitched a perfect game in the sectional opener, Damon Olds and Austin Hicks also had complete-game wins and Pete Lannoo, Cody Brock and Craig Peters are among other mound possibilities — that its three potential foes are unlikely to match.
“I like our pitching and defense,” Hayes noted. “We only gave up five runs in three sectional games … but we need to start swinging the bats a little better. We’ve been awfully impatient at the plate.”
Clinton, a team composed primarily of players from Vermillion and Parke County schools, is led by Class 3A all-state catcher Kaden Lawson of South Vermillion. It has several pitchers who have bothered Post 346 with off-speed offerings — Clinton (15-11) won a regular-season game against Terre Haute — and a host of players who enjoy playing against Hayes’ traditional powerhouse (28 sectional titles in 29 years).
“It’s great to have somebody here that’s competitive,” Hayes said this week. “That just makes us better.”
Unlike sectional play, only the champion advances from this weekend’s regional to the state finals next week at St. Leon (near Cincinnati, at East Central High School).
Terre Haute’s season won’t end with a regional setback, since Post 346 is the host team for the Great Lakes National Regional in early August. But Hayes would much rather his team play its way back to town, and a setback this weekend would mean a long idle stretch before national regional play that begins Aug. 8.