For the second year in a row, the Rick Ball Ford Post 642 Aux. American Legion baseball team took a trip to state, but for the second year in a row the tournament run was short-lived. The Juniors lost 6-2 to eventual state champion Washington and 12-2 to Glendale.
Errors proved costly in both games.
“We had more errors in two games there than I think we’ve had in two games all year,” said Juniors manager Brent Hodge. “I don’t know if they felt added pressure of just tired at the end of the season.”
Hodge said the Juniors also ran into top-notch pitching. Washington won the A state tournament last season.
The run to get to state included going 26-16 overall, district and zone championships, sweeping Odessa to win the district and going 3-1 in the zone tournament.
“We ended up having a pretty good summer,” Hodge said. “It was a slow start because of all the weather, but once we could string some games together, we were very consistent the last half of the season. Defensively, the defense and our pitching on the mound really ballooned the last half of the season.”
The offense also clicked and produced a lot of run support for those pitchers, including 34 in two games against Odessa at districts.
“When we were really putting up runs, we have guys one through nine that really knew what their job was,” Hodge said. “We had two-hole hitters that would sacrifice themselves to move runners over. Our three, four and five guys would constantly come through with runners in scoring position and once we got toward the bottom of the lineup it was ‘hey let’s get on base and turn the lineup over.’ When we were going well, that’s what was happening.”
Most of the players on this year’s Juniors roster will be moving on due to age restrictions next year, and they leave the Juniors for a number of different high school teams, but Hodge sees players ready to take the next step, whether that means a spot on the Travelers roster in 2016 or a major role on their high school teams.
“We have a pretty diverse group, all going our different ways in the spring, but I don’t have any doubt that all of our guys will be contributors on high school teams next spring,” Hodge said.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles