BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – For the first time since 2001, the Kokomo Post 6 baseball team will return to the Indiana American Legion State Finals after cruising through the four-team Indiana Regional No. 3 at Centerville High School. The Sixers (26-5) will play for its third Indiana state championship this week at Bill Nixon Field in Plymouth.
“They are just the most fun group, top to bottom, that I have ever coached,” said Post 6 manager Don Andrews. “The players play very relaxed.”
The Sixers advances to the state finals following a 12-5 win over Richmond Post 65 in the title clash. Drew Bellus picked up the win, throwing five-hit ball through the first six innings. Justin Blevens led the offensive attack with a pair of singles, a home run and five RBIs. Keagan Downey nearly hit for the cycle, ending with a single, double and a triple. Nathan Pflugh popped two singles and a double while S.A. Dunn and Isaac Turner each had two singles.
“Our team on-base percentage for the year is .478,” said Andrews, who noted the squads six through nine hitters accounted for 11 RBIs in the win. “We should be able to score runs with that. Then it is easier for our pitchers to pitch with the lead and no pressure on our defense.”
Post 6 opened regional play with an 11-2 win over Cicero Post 34, thanks to a solid pitching performance by Austin Weaver, who improved to 8-0 on the season. Weaver struck out six in six innings of work and gave up just one earned run. Dunn had three singles and a double to pace the hit parade. Logan Macaluso and Pflugh had two singles each and Downey had a double. Evan Warden and Blevens each had a two-run single.
Game two saw Kokomo knocked off Richmond 9-1 as Warden struck out 11 hitters in six innings of shutout work to record the win. Macaluso had two singles and a triple, Tyler Goudy and Isaac Turner had a single and double each and Downey knocked in a pair of runs.
“Probably the most important thing from this weekend was our approach at the plate,” said Andrews. “We do a very good job of taking what the opposing pitcher gives us. We had 40 hits in three games, but also had 21 bases on balls.”
Kokomo (state championships in 1972, 1976 and 1982) will open its bid for a fourth state title in the final game of opening day on July 29 when it plays host Plymouth Post 27 at 7:30 p.m. Rockport Post 254 plays Remington Post 280 in the tourney opener at 9:30 a.m. Game two features Mishawaka Post 161 against Newburgh Post 44 at 12:30 p.m. while Floyds Knob Post 42 will battle perineal favorite and 12-time state champion Terre Haute Post 346 at 4:30 p.m.
The winner of the Indiana state finals will travel to the eight-team Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute the following week. Terre Haute receives an automatic bid to the regional, so if they win the state title the runner-up team would advance.
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL STATE TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS
Tuesday, July 29
Game 1: Rockport 254 (7) vs. Remington 280 (1)
Game 2: Mishawaka 161 vs. Newburgh 44 (12:30 p.m.)
Game 3: Floyds Knobs 42 vs. Terre Haute 346 (4:30 p.m.)
Game 4: Kokomo 6 vs. Plymouth 27 (7:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 30
Game 5: Loser game 5 vs. Remington Post 280 (9:30 a.m.)
Game 6: Loser game 2 vs. loser game 4 (12:30 p.m.)
Game 7: Rockport 254 vs. winner game 3 (4:30 p.m.)
Game 8: Winner game 2 vs. winner game 4 (7:30 p.m.)
Thursday, July 31
Game 9: Winner game 6 vs. loser game 7 (12:30 p.m.)
Game 10: Winner game 5 vs. loser Game 8 (4:30 p.m.)
Game 11: Winner game 7 vs. winner game 8 (7:30 p.m.)
Friday, Aug. 1
Game 12: Winner game 9 vs. loser game 11 (1 p.m.)
Game 13: Winner game 10 vs. winner game 11 (7 p.m.)
Saturday, Aug. 2 (Championship Game)
Game 14: Winner game 12 vs. winner game 13 (1 p.m.)
Game 15: If necessary (7 p.m.)