Led by third-year American Legion player and recent West Vigo High School graduate Evan Newman, Wayne Newton Post 346's baseball team has begun another season with a Hayes guiding it.
Tim Hayes, 56, is in his fourth season of managing Post 346. His older brother, John Hayes, spent 31 years performing the same duties until he retired following the 2015 campaign.
"This is the 35th year that the Hayes family has been in charge of the program and I'm very proud of that," Tim Hayes told the Tribune-Star this week.
Wayne Newton opened its 2019 season Monday with a come-from-behind 12-10 victory at Kokomo. A home game was slated against Lafayette on Wednesday night at its usual site — Terre Haute North High School — but it was rained out.
Last season, Post 346 captured the American Legion state championship and finished with a 29-9 record after bowing out of the Great Lakes Regional at Toledo, Ohio.
If Wayne Newton is to repeat as state champion — a goal of Tim Hayes and his players — the squad will need another stellar season from Newman, who hit about .400 and had a 7-2 pitching record with a 1.74 earned-run average for West Vigo this spring.
"He's been one of my best players for three years running," Tim Hayes said of the Lincoln Trail College-bound Newman, who plays second baseman/third baseman/pitcher for Post 346. "He's always the first to help me with things, like carrying things or whatever.
"But first and foremost, he's a competitor. He just loves to play the game of baseball. He wants to win in the worst way. He loves to compete."
Some of Hayes' key second-year players are second baseman/designated hitter Caleb Gonser (battling shoulder issues), first baseman/pitcher Ryan Brown and right fielder/pitcher Will Kelly.
Others making their American Legion debuts in 2019 and likely starting a fair amount include Pierson Barnes (from Riverton Parke) and Garrett Loyed at catcher; Ethan Newman at first base and pitcher; Dillon Kinnett at shortstop; Tristan Elder at third base and pitcher; Brayton Reed at first base, second base and third base; Adam Craig in center field and at pitcher; left-hander Joe Vrabic at pitcher; and righty Kendal Riley at pitcher.
Manager Hayes also mentioned that Cole Whitlock is back to play left field and pitch after playing for Post 346 in 2017. Like Vrabic, Whitlock is a southpaw.
Looking ahead to the state tournament, the regional is expected to return to Terre Haute North with Post 346, Clay County, Clinton and Sullivan being among the participants. Tim Hayes added that Rockville, which Barnes played for in 2018, no longer has a legion team.
The state finals will take place in Rockport.