Plymouth (Ind.) American Legion Post 27 baseball is back. After a six-season hiatus, the Diamond Spyders are getting ready for the 2023 summer season. Post 27 last fielded a senior (19U) team in 2016. Plymouth comes back this year its first junior (17U) team with the goal of having a senior squad in 2024. Ryan Jessen is the Diamond Spyders general manager. Jessen says the season is 2023 important for re-establishing Post 27 in the Legion baseball community. There’s a few other reasons. “It provides a cost-efficient, family-friendly option to play baseball locally,” says Jessen. “Lastly, it gives our players an opportunity to develop their skills in a ‘practice-first’ model, encouraging daily skill-building over participating in weekend tournaments.” Why did Jessen decide to revive Post 27? “My son had a great summer last year playing on a 15U team in Indianapolis,” says Jessen. “He had a good coaching staff who played him at multiple positions. He met a lot of really nice people. “Our only issue was logistically speaking, we were spending more time on the road than we were at the field.” A tournament schedule at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.. typically starts with one game on Thursday and Friday morning, then finished over the weekend. “We had four hours of drive time, four days a week,” says Jessen. “In this time, my son got roughly 10 at-bats and maybe 40 bullpen reps. That’s just not enough. I reached out to the Legion because I want to offer a local program focused on daily skill-building. “My hope is each kid can get 100-plus reps a day. Our season will not be determined by a win-and-loss record. We want each kid to focus on nutrition, strength-building and skill development. If we do that, then our goal of a cost-efficient, family-friendly, skill-based program will be more than successful.” A roster currently of 16 consisting of players who attend three high schools — Plymouth, Culver Community and Culver Military — is slated to open the season June 6. Home games will be played at Bill Nixon Field in Plymouth’s Centennial Park. The state tournament is in late July. Two high school varsity head coaches — Ryan Wolfe (Plymouth) and Kurt Christiansen (Culver Military) — are on the coaching staff along with Clayton Adamson and Michael Delp. Blake Mackey serves as marketing intern/communications analyst.
Brackets have been set for the 2022 American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. Indiana champion Muncie Post 19 is scheduled to play its first game against Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171 in Game 3 at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Muncie will play again in the double-elimination event on Thursday, Aug. 4 at either 4 p.m. (Wednesday win) or 9:30 a.m. (Wednesday loss). The regional continues through Sunday, Aug. 7. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. Muncie (19-11) earned the right to compete at regional by beating Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score Saturday, July 30 in Kokomo for the Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Championship. Jacob Pruitt tossed a no-hitter as the Kevn Zvokel-managed Chiefs won their first state title since 2008. Muncie went 4-1 in the tournament began in Rockport and concluded in Muncie.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL GREAT LAKES REGIONAL (At Midland, Mich.) Wednesday, Aug. 3 Game 1: Moline (Ill.) Post 256 vs. Eau Claire (Wis.), 9:30 a.m. Game 2: Aviston (Ill.) 1239 vs. Manitowoc (Wis.) Post 88, 12:30 p.m. Game 3: Muncie (Ind.) Post 19 vs. Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171, 4 p.m. Game 4: Cincinnati (Ohio) Post 199 vs. Midland (Mich.) Post 165, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4 Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 9:30 a.m. Game 6: Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30 p.m. Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 4 p.m. Game 8: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 11 a.m. Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 4 p.m. Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6 Game 12: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 4 p.m. Game 13: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7 Game 14: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 1 p.m. (Championship). Game 15: If necessary, 4 p.m.
Right-hander Jacob Pruitt pitched a no-hitter Saturday, July 30 to help Muncie Post 19 defeat Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score in the championship of the 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Finals. Pruitt threw 100 pitches with 11 strikeouts and two walks to helped the Post 19 Chiefs win the program’s first senior baseball state crown since 2008. “My catcher Luke Willmann called a great game today,” said Pruitt. “He knew exactly what he wanted to me to throw and I was able to execute.” Pruitt, a 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Indiana State University recruit as well as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant, mixed his four- and two-seam fastball and his breaking pitches to best Terre Haute for the second time during the State Finals. The first time was not at Kokomo’s CFD Stadium at Highland Park. The tournament began in Rockport Friday, July 22 and was moved to Kokomo because of excessive rain on what would have been the final day Tuesday, July 25. This also allowed all pitchers to be eligible under American Legion pitch count rest rules. Muncie Post 19, Terre Haute Post 346 and Kokomo Post 6 came into Saturday’s action with 3-1 tourney records. “I learned what their hitters are capable of doing,” said Pruitt of the July 22 game against Terre Haute. “They’re a very good team, obviously. But I was able to find some weaknesses in the off-speed where I could exploit. “It the curveball the last time. It was the slider today. I was able to mix it up.” Post 346 manager David Will explained why he thought Pruitt was so effective. “He throws a 92 mph fastball and he’s got a slider that’s only five or six miles an hour slower,” said Will. “It looks like a fastball coming to the kids so they’re right out front and it makes them look silly. “He’s a good pitcher.” Post 19 Chiefs manager Ken Zvokel had Jerad Michael (who had two saves earlier in the State Finals) ready to go if Pruitt faltered. But that did not happen. “(Pruitt) was on fire,” said Kvokel. He got it in his head that he was going to win this game and wasn’t going to give the ball up.” With the championship, Muncie (19-11) advances to the Great Lakes Regional (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 3-7 in Midland, Mich. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. “We were fired up,” said Zvokel of his team. “We’ve had a good roll here the last couple of weeks. We play good ball all the way — top to bottom. Every guy on the bench is ready to go.” Terre Haute (25-8-1) was seeking its 15th overall state title and first since 2019. Post 346 topped Kokomo Post 6 by a 5-1 count in Saturday’s first game. Muncie went up 4-0 with two runs in the fourth. Hayden Carrow smacked a lead-off single and Isaac Jackson followed with a double. Carrow scored on an error and Jackson later came home Cooper Roach’s sacrifice fly. Post 19 tallied a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the third for a 2-0 lead. Quinn Faulkner led off with a walk and Michael reached on a sacrifice and an error. A double by Willmann drove in Faulkner and Michael. Right-hander Derek Lebron, a Rend Lake College recruit, pitched a complete game for Terre Haute. He allowed six hits while striking out five and walking two
Semifinal Terre Haute Post 346 5, Kokomo Post 6 1 Right-hander Cade Moore threw 100 pitches and went the distance as the winner for Post 346. The right-hander who graduated from Terre Haute North Vigo High School in 2021 and was at Kentucky Wesleyan College in the spring scattered six hits, struck out five and walked none. “Cade pitched really well,” said Will. “He was pounding the zone. He gave them some fits. On top of that we made some great plays in the infield that really helped him.” Terre Haute took its lead up to 5-1 with one run in the top of the sixth inning. Logan Nicoson singled and later crossed the plate on an infield hit by Tyler Will. Kokomo right fielder Jacob Ward caught a fly and threw out a runner at the plate for the first two outs. Post 6 cut the gap to 4-1 with one run in the bottom of the fourth. Will McKinzie produced a lead-off single and later scored on Conner Boone’s sacrifice fly. McKinzie moved to second base on an error and third base on Levi Mavrick’s single. Post 346 pushed its advantage to 4-0 with a solo home run by Pierson Barnes in the top of the fourth. With one out, Barnes belted the first pitch he saw over the tall fence in right field. Terre Haute took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third. Ty Stultz drew a walk against Kokomo right-handed starter Owen Taylor. With one out, Moore doubled off Post 6 righty reliever Mavrick, who tossed the last five innings and gave up 10 hits with one strikeout and two walks. An error on the play allowed Stultz and score. A single by Bryson Carpenter plated Moore from second base. Post 346 scored one run in the top of the first. Lead-off man Caden Mason walked and later scored on a wild pitch. He was advanced to second base by Moore’s sacrifice bunt and third base Carpenter’s fly-out. Kokomo, which was seeking its first state crown since 1982, finished 2022 season at 23-10-2. Because of a positive COVID-19 test, Post 6 was without 2022 Logansport High School graduate and Indiana University Kokomo commit Gavin Smith. He was selected as the A.D. Phillips Sportsmanship Award winner. The five other participants in the 2022 State Finals were Newburgh Post 44, Jasper Post 147, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 and Rockport Post 254.
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS (2022) At Rockport Friday, July 22 Newburgh 7, Jasper 3 Muncie 2, Terre Haute 1 Kokomo 4, South Bend 1 Rockport 5, South Haven 4 Saturday, July 23 Jasper 10, South Bend 7 Terre Haute 7, South Haven 0 (forfeit) Kokomo 10, Newburgh 4 Muncie 4, Rockport 3 Sunday, July 24 Terre Haute 4, Newburgh 3 Rockport 11, Jasper 0 (5 inn.) Muncie 10, Kokomo 0 (5 inn.) Monday, July 25 Kokomo 3, Rockport 2 Terre Haute 15, Muncie 3 At Kokomo Saturday, July 30 Terre Haute 5, Kokomo 1 (semifinal) Muncie 4, Terre Haute 0 (championship)
Rockport Post 254 will host the 2022 rendition of the Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Finals. The eight-team event is slated for Friday through Tuesday, July 22-26 at Jim Haaff Field in Rockport. The champion will advance to Great Lakes Regional (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) Aug. 3-7 in Midland, Mich. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. Post 254 won the 2021 title in Kokomo. It was Rockport’s 11th state crown. Region 7 host Rockport is managed by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jim Haaff. His assistants are Josh Garrett, Bill Hesson, Jason Scamahorn and Jesse Smith. The general manager is Darrell Stephens. Jasper is Region 7 champion. Terry Gobert is the Post 147 manager/GM. He is assisted by Brian Kirchoff. Newburgh is Region 6 champion. Joe Paulin is the Post 44 manager/GM. He is assisted by Matt Brunton, Ryan Shelton, Mike Sharp, Chris Pillow and Dr. David Schultz. Terre Haute is Region 5 champion. David Will is Post 346 manager/GM. His assistants are Jayson Cottrell and Travis Mason. Muncie is Region 4 champion. Ken Zvokel is Post 19 manager/GM. Kokomo is Region 3 champion. Don Andrews is Post 6 manager/GM. His assistants are Jason Turlock, Nathan Kirk, Tristan Kivett and Eric Mills. South Bend is Region 2 champion. Tony Cruz is coach/GM. His assistant at Nevaeh Ortiz-Cruz and Ben Monges. South Haven is Region 1 runner-up. Bobby Wineland is manager and John Tabor assistant manager. Assistants are Jose Guevara, John Jenkins and Preston Tabor. Owen Wells is the Indiana state commander for baseball. Here are the double-elimination tournament brackets (all times are Central) and rosters:
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS At Rockport Friday, July 22 Game 1: Newburgh Post 44 (12-10) vs. Jasper Post 147 (12-2-1), 11 a.m. Game 2: Muncie Post 19 (15-10) vs. Terre Haute Post 346 (21-6-1), 2 p.m. Game 3: South Bend Post 151 (12-4) vs. Kokomo Post 6 (20-8-2), 4:30 p.m. Game 4: South Haven Post 502 (12-12-1) vs. Rockport Post 254 (16-5), 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23 Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 11 a.m. Game 6: Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m. Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 4:30 p.m. Game 8: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24 Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 1 p.m. Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 3:30 p.m. Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 6 p.m. Monday, July 25 Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 1 p.m. Game 13: Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jul 26 Game 14: Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 1 p.m. (championship). Game 15: If necessary game, followed Game 14.
Rosters Newburgh Post 44 0 Zach York 7 Brandon Juarez 8 Joe Pillow 11 Keaton Kern 12 Reece Harper 13 Connor Specht 15 Collin Scaggs 17 Hunter Lindsey 21 David Schultz 24 Carter Hood 26 Kolton Watson 27 Oliver Clark 29 Adam Watson 35 Brayden Gibson 55 Adam Sanabria 99 Kai Radke
Jasper Post 147 1 Max Werner 2 Thomas Habig 3 Ryan Leuck 4 Kody Morton 5 Ben Henke 6 Hunter Stork 7 Eli Hopf 8 Reece Egbert 9 Sam Helming 10 Andrew Noblitt 11 Drew Bradley 12 Mitchell Leinenbach 13 Braxton Brosmer 16 Chris Hedinger 19 Matthew Wright 20 Andrew Sternberg 25 Will Wallace 28 Griffith Hile
Muncie Post 19 2/2 Cooper Roach 3/21 Cade Brinson 4/12 Chase Smith 5/23 Isaac Jackson 6/6 Gavin Noble 7/33 Mac King 9/9 Austin Jones 10/10 Bryce Adams 12/5 Alex King 14/34 Will Anderson 15/18 Jerad Michael 21/38 Jacob Pruitt 22/4 Luke Willmann 23/8 Quinn Faulkner 33/11 Kess McBride 34/14 Crosby Heniser 55/24 Hayden Carrow
Terre Haute Post 346 1 Tyler Will 2 Bryson Carpenter 3 Ty Stultz 4 Noah Bray 5 Caden Mason 6 Coy Edwards 7 Tucker Helton 8 Logan Nicoson 9 Ross Olsen 10 Sam Glotzbach 11 Cade Moore 12 Pierson Barnes 15 Kylan Norman 19 Jackson McFarland 20 Derek Lebron
South Bend Post 151 2 Joseph Curylo 3 Anthony Burkowski 6 Samuel Mischak 8 Austin Love 10 Trace Gilbert 11 Dylan Hanley 14 Nathan Marshman 18 Michael Compton 19 Francesco Lizzi 21 Pike Temple 22 Julius Bagarus 23 Erick Marin 24 Kellen Demkovich 25 Henry Singer 27 Peyton Ring 32 Payton Jones 33 David Szajko 74 Christopher Gault
Kokomo Post 6 1 Jacob Ward 2 Jon Maloy 3 Cooper Hansen 4 Kaine Fowler 5 Cayden Calloway 6 Will McKinzie 9 Jake Seuferer 10 Levi Mavrick 11 Ashton Sexton 12 Avery Fields 15 Conner Boone 16 Troy Smith 18 Larry Hamilton 33 John Scottg 34 Brandon Smitley 35 Preston Sanford 36 Gavin Smith 44 Owen Taylor
South Haven Post 502 1 Kyle Feterick 3 Jacob Jenkins 7 James Haltz 9 Adam Allis 13 Caleb Johnson 14 Kyle Janda 15 Mark Fausto 16 Ivan Balboa 19 Jacob Gonzalez 20 Dylan Stuphan 22 Caleb Short 27 Evan Szabo 29 Nathan Lambert 31 Ryan Graziano 34 Aidan McCormick 35 Payton Fausto 52 Noah Scott 54 Kaden Sroka
Rockport Post 254 10 Garrett Scamahorn 11 Jalen Johnson 12 Jake Stuteville 14 Noah Brunner 15 Diond’re Jacob 16 Ty Brown 18 Houston Compton 19 Ty Kalb 20 Trey Mattingly 21 Holton Compton 24 Ashton Tindle 27 Jackson Raaf 31 Evan Bowling 32 Ryan Ogle 33 Wes Scamahorn
Bob Rutherford has been a supporter of youth sports for the majority of his 84 years. One can find him at all sorts of events involving athletes from Western High School in Russiaville, Ind. One of eight in the 1957 WHS graduating class and a 10-letterwinner (track, basketball and baseball), Rutherford carries a shiny lifetime pass that allows him to cheer on the Panthers at home contests. At baseball games he can be found behind home plate between the scoreboard and the backstop. He also has his favorite locations to view basketball, football and more. What is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League purchased land from Rutherford and expanded while he and wife Anna Mae moved to New London — which is two miles due north of Russiaville and 10 miles southwest of Kokomo. There is a baseball diamond in the back yard and batting cages in his garage at New London. “The minor league team needed a place to practice and we had 2.75 acres so we just built us a ball diamond out back,” says Rutherford, who was a volunteer Little League umpire for 14 years. Bob and Anna Mae have been married 56 years. They had three daughters (one died at 42). Rutherford goes all over the region — Championship Park (Kokomo), Kokomo Municipal Stadium, Grand Park (Westfield) and more — and is a fixture at Kokomo Post 6 games. When Post 6 is at home as it is this weekend for the regional tournament against Lafayette Post 11, he can be found in his favorite spot high in the third base side bleachers at CFD Investment Stadium at Highland Park. “I attend as many as I can,” says Rutherford. “I don’t miss any home games.” To say he is a loyal customer is an understatement. “I love the game,” says Rutherford. “I played it and I love it.” Though he never played at Highland Park, he did attend a tryout there for the Kokomo Dodgers following high school. He recalls seeing future Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda when he was the the minor league team. “That’s where he used to hit his home runs,” says Rutherford while pointing to a house beyond the Highland Park fence. After the Dodgers, the Kokomo Highlanders attracted baseball fans — including Rutherford — to Highland Park. Purdue standout Dennis Brady and Del Harris (who went on to coach in the NBA and go into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame) was were Highlanders in the late 1960’s. Rutherford played in front of large crowds during his fast pitch softball days at Foster Park. He worked at Delco in Kokomo. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1958-62 and belong to Kokomo Post 6, which is celebrating its centennial in 2022. Harold Rutherford — one of Bob’s four siblings — was the president of the first class at Western (a consolation of the New London Quakers, Russiaville Cossacks and West Middleton Broncos). In 1985, Rutherford helped start the Russiaville American Legion Post 412 Cubs. The team traveled far and wide and made some noise in a tournament in Pueblo, Colo. “They wanted to know where Russiaville, Ind., was,” says Rutherford of a team that drew players from Western, Northwestern and Clinton Central high schools. “Eventually they started coming up here and play ball. We’d roast a hog. They really enjoyed it.” Russiaville hosted wooden bat classic every year in July with teams coming from places like Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Ontario. “The kids really enjoyed what we tried to build out there,” says Rutherford. “You get to see them expand. That’s why I like Legion ball. “These kids are developing to the next step.”
For the 11th time, Rockport Post 254 toted away the hardware. Rockport beat Crawfordsville Post 72 by a 4-2 count in the Indiana American Legion Baseball Senior State Finals championship game. The contest was staged Tuesday, July 27 at CFD Investment Stadium at Highland Park in Kokomo and closed out a five-day run for the eight-team double-elimination tournament. Rockport (20-7) came out of the winners’ bracket, meaning that losers’ bracket survivor Crawfordsville (20-12) had to win twice to earn its first state crown and instead took home its first runner-up trophy. Post 254 and Post 72 advanced to the championship game with wins in Monday’s semifinals. With the state crown, Rockport moves on to the Great Lakes Regional Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 4-8 at Dale Miller Field in Morgantown, W.Va. Besides the Indiana champion, there will be state title-takers from Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia. Eight regional winners advance to the American Legion Baseball World Series Thursday through Monday, Aug. 12-16 on Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C. Post 254 prevailed Tuesday by staying away from the big Post 72 inning. “That’s been one of the secrets of this bunch,” said Rockport manager Jim Haaf, who has been involved with all 11 state titles. “They overcome and they did it several times today.” Crawfordsville plated one run in the top of the seventh inning. Drew Bradley (2021 Danville Community High School) led off with a walk. With two outs, Post 254 right-handed starter Jake Stuteville (South Spencer Class of 2021) reached the 105-pitch count limit (he finished with 107 while finishing a batter) was spelled by right-hander Reece Davis (Perry Central Class of 2021), who yielded a single to center from George Valencia (Fountain Central Class of 2020) that plated Bradley then coaxed a championship-clinching infield pop-up. “I trusted my fastball,” said Stuteville, who struck out six, walked three and gave up five hits and two runs in his 5 1/3 innings. “It was moving. “I just had confidence in myself.” Rockport scored one run in the sixth for a 4-1 lead. Right-hander Landen Southern (Clinton Prairie Class of 2021) reached the pitch limit (he tossed 109 while being allowed to finish a batter) and was relieved by Bradley with the bases loaded and two outs after a pair of Southern strikeouts. Bradley walked Ashton Tindle (South Spencer Class of 2022) to force in Bren Miller (Tell City Class of 2021), who led off the inning with a single to left) and the frame ended with a strikeout. Southern gave up four runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. There were runners at first and second base against Stuteville at the close of the Post 72 sixth. “It’s rough,” said four-year Crawfordsville manager Kyle Proctor, who saw his team strand eight runners, including four in scoring position. “I think we could have won the championship, but they beat us the first time and put us in the losers’ bracket, making it a lot tougher.” Jacob Braun (North Montgomery Class of 2021) rapped a one-out single to left and Matthew Harris (Tri-West Hendricks Class of 2021) drew a walk before an inning-ending forceout and third base off the bat of Zach Fichter (Crawfordsville Class of 2021). The Rockport fifth ended with a defensive gem. Post 72 first baseman Cade Walker (Seeger Class of 2021) made a diving catch of a line drive by Jackson Raaf (South Spencer Class of 2022) and threw to shortstop Owen Gregg (North Montgomery Class of 2020) to double off Jalen Johnson (South Spencer Class of 2022), who had reached on an error and stolen second base. Southern was on the mound for Crawfordsville. Stuteville worked his way in and out of a jam in a scoreless Crawfordsville fifth. With one out. Fichter was hit by a pitch, Bradley reached on an error and Austin Motz (Crawfordsville Class of 2022) walked to lead the bases before Stuteville got a strikeout and fly-out to end the threat. “Our pitcher got squared away,” said Haaf. “Then we made some plays and began to hit the ball a little bit.” Rockport went down 1-2-3 against Southern in the fourth with swinging strikeout, pop-up and looking strikeout. Post 72 sent four batters to the plate against Stuteville in a score-free fourth and left Braun at first base following a two-out single to left. Rockport went scorless against Southern in the third. Crawfordsville turned a double play for the first two outs — shortstop Gregg to sprawling first baseman Walker. The inning ended when Crawfordsville left fielder Ficther took away a hit from Diond’re Jacob (Tell City Class of 2021). Fichter made a dive and catch heading toward the fence. Crawfordsville went down in order against Stuteville in the third with a fly-out, groundout and strikeout. Post 254 went up 3-1 with two runs in the second. Wes Scamehorn (Perry Central Class of 2021) drew a lead-off walk and scored on a two-run home run by Houston Compton (South Spencer Class of 2022). The blast to left came on a 3-2 delivery from Southern that concluded an at-bat where Compton fouled off three pitches. Post 72 pulled even at 1-1 with a run against Stuteville in the second. Braun lashed a lead-off double to left, moved to second on a single to left by Walker and scored on a fielder’s choice forceout by Harris. The frame ended with Rockville catcher Raaf firing to second baseman Johnson to cut down Harris attempting to steal. Rockport scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. Raaf drew a one-out walk from Southern and later scored on a single to center by Davis. Southern struck out the side in Crawfordsville first. Crawfordsville’s roster was full of older players so Proctor expects a different look next summer. “We scout in the spring and see which players can join us,” says Proctor. “We play for everything. (Players) don’t pay anything.” Indiana crowned its first American Legion Baseball state champion in 1926.
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS (At Kokomo) Championship ROCKPORT POST 254 4, CRAWFORDSVILLE POST 72 2 Crawfordsville 010 000 1 — 2 6 2 Rockport 120 001 x — 4 7 1 Landen Southern (L), Drew Bradley (6); Jake Stuteville (W), Reece Davis (7, S). Crawfordsville: Hits — Jacob Braun 3, Owen Gregg 1, George Valencia 1, Cade Walker 1. 2B — Braun. RBI — Valencia 1, Matthew Harris 1. Runs — Braun, Bradley. LOB — 8. Rockport: Hits — Davis 3, Bren Miller 2, Jackson Raaf 1, Houston Compton 1. HR — Compton. 2B — Davis. RBI — Compton 2, Davis 1, Ashton Tindle 1. Runs — Raaf 1, Compton 1, Miller 1, Wes Scamahorn 1. SB — Davis, Jalen Johnson. LOB — 5. T — 2:08. Records: Rockport 21-11, Crawfordsville 20-12.
Semifinals Rockport Post 254 10, Kokomo Post 6 7 Scoring three runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, Rockport snapped a 7-7 tie with a one-out run-scoring single to left field by 2021 Tell City High School graduate Wes Scamahorn that plated Jackson Raaf (South Spencer Class of 2022). “It was one of those days when we were having a hard time getting inspired,” said Rockport manager Jim Haaf. “(Ashton Tindle’s deep, running) catch in the center field (in the sixth inning) got us going a little bit. (Right-hander and 2021 Kokomo graduate Mason Keller) was pretty good with his breaking pitch today and that gave us a lot of trouble.” A balk allowed Diond’re Jacob (Tell City Class of 2021) to tally Post 254’s ninth run and a sacrifice fly by Houston Compton (South Spencer Class of 2022) pushed across the 10th. Leading Rockport’s 12-hit attack were Compton with three, Jacob, Tindle (South Spencer Class of 2022) and Jake Stuteville (South Spencer Class of 20210 with two each. Compton drove in three runs and Stuteville knocked home two. Jacob scored three runs while Scamahorn and Compton crossed the plate two times each. Tanner Jennings (Tell City Class of 2022) pitched the last three innings and earned the victory. The right-hander gave up two runs and three hits while striking out three. “We save some pitching for (Tuesday),” said Haaf. “We managed to keep it close.” Kokomo, which led 5-1 after its first four at-bats, got three hits from Cameron Arcari (Eastern Class of 2021) and two from losing pitcher Jace Stoops (Twin Lakes Class of 2020) as well has two RBIs from Jacob Ward (Kokomo Class of 2021) and two runs scored from both Stoops and Taylor Duncan (Kokomo Class of 2021). “We are more than tickled to be in the final three teams in the state,” said Post 6 manager Don Andrews. “I’ve been involved with Legion baseball since 2004 and this is the first time I can remember a team with a losing record in the Final Four, let alone the Final Three.”
Crawfordsville Post 72 9, Newburgh Post 44 5 Post 72 broke a 4-4 deadlock with two runs in the top of the fourth inning and added two more in the sixth and one in the seventh. A solo home run over the 25-foot high right field fence by Landen Southern (Clinton Prairie Class of 2021) put Crawfordsville ahead 5-4. “We hit the ball well,” said Post 72 manager Kyle Proctor. In the two-run sixth, George Valencia (Fountain Central Class of 2020 socked a two-run homer to right-center — just to the left of the high part of the wall. Southern finished with four hits while Cade Walker (Seeger Class of 2021) had two and Valencia and Jacob Braun (North Montgomery Class of 2021) two apiece. Valencia drove in three and Braun 2. Southern scored three runs while Valencia and Braun tallied two apiece. Winning pitcher Henry Taylor (Crawfordsville Class of 2021) went the first six innings. The right-hander whiffed three and walked three while yielding six hits and four runs. Six different Newburgh players produced hits. Zach York (Evansville Harrison Class of 2022) lashed a two-run double left during a four-run uprising in the third inning. Losing pitcher David Schultz (Harrison Class of 2021) cracked a two-run single to center on the very next pitch. “It was an awesome experience considering where we came from,” said Newburgh manager Joe Paulin. After the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season and the previous coaching staff departed, it was a brand new team and staff for Newburgh in 2021. “We started from scratch,” said Paulin. “We had tryouts and kept all 12 players. A lot of those guys didn’t even know each others’ names at the beginning of the season. Here we are tied for third in the state.” Post 44 placed third behind Evansville Pate Post 265 and Terre Haute Post 346 in this year’s Junior State Finals.
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS (At Kokomo) Semifinals (Losers’ Bracket) CRAWFORDSVILLE POST 72 9, NEWBURGH POST 44 5 Crawfordsville 004 202 1 — 9 14 2 Newburgh 004 000 1 — 5 6 1 Henry Taylor (W), Austin Motz (7); Hunter Lindsey, David Schultz (3, L), Evan Doan (7). Crawfordsville: Hits — Landen Southern 4, Cade Walker 3, George Valencia 2, Jacob Braun 2, Taylor 1, Owen Gregg 1, Matthew Harris 1. HR — Southern, Valencia. RBI — Valencia 3, Braun 2, Southern 1, Taylor 1, Walker 1. Runs — Southern 3, Valencia 2, Braun 2, Gregg 1, Zach Fichter 1. SB — Valencia 1, Braun 1, Fichter 1. LOB — 9. Newburgh: Hits — Schutlz 1, Lindsey 1, Evan Doan 1, Zach York 1, Logan Thomas 1, Keaton Holmes 1. 2B — York. RBI — York 2, Schultz 2. SB — Schultz 1. LOB — 7. T — 2:07. Records: Crawfordsville 20-11, Newburgh 19-8.
Tournament Results Game 1: Newburgh Post 44 7, South Bend Post 151 0, forfeit. Game 2: Crawfordsville Post 72 4, Muncie Post 19 2. Game 3: Rockport Post 254 2, Valparaiso Post 94 0. Game 4: Kokomo Post 6 9, South Haven Post 502 3. Game 5: Valparaiso Post 94 7, Soutn Bend Post 151 0, forfeit. Game 6: South Haven Post 502 12, Muncie Post 19 9. Game 7: Rockport Post 254 4, Newburgh Post 44 3. Game 8: Crawfordsville Post 72 10, Kokomo Post 6 4. Game 9: Newburgh Post 44 6, South Haven Post 502 5. Game 10: Kokomo Post 6 4, South Haven Post 502 3. Game 11: Rockport Post 254 9, Crawfordsville Post 72 3. Game 12 (Semifinals — Losers’ Bracket): Crawfordsville Post 72 9, Newburgh Post 44 5. Game 13 (Semifinals — Winners’ Bracket): Rockport Post 254 10, Kokomo Post 6 7. Game 14 (Championship): Crawfordsville Post 72 vs. Rockport Post 254 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 27. Game 15 (Second championship): If necessary, following Game 14.
2021 INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS (At Highland Park, Kokomo) Friday, July 23 Game 1: South Bend Post 151 vs. Newburgh Post 44, 11 a.m. Game 2: Muncie Post 19 vs. Crawfordsville Post 72, 1:30 p.m. Game 3: Rockport Post 254 vs. Valparaiso Post 94, 4:30 p.m. Game 4: South Haven Post 502 vs. Kokomo Post 6, 7 p.m. Saturday, July 24 Game 5: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser, 11 a.m. Game 6: Game 2 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser, 1 p.m. Game 7: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner, 4:30 p.m. Game 8: Game 2 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, 7 p.m. Sunday, July 25 Game 9: Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Loser, 1 p.m. Game 10: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser, 3:30 p.m. Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 6 p.m. Monday, July 26 Game 12: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 11 Loser, 1 p.m. Game 13: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 Game 14 (Championship: Game 12 Winner vs. Game 13 Winner, 1 p.m. Game 15 (If necessary): Second championship game following Game 14.
Antonio “Tony” Cruz Jr., came close to losing his life and the sport that occupies much of thoughts. The COVID-19 virus struck the husband and father of three in the first half of 2020 and he spent 25 days of May in Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. — nine in the Intensive Care Unit. His oxygen level dropped to 55 and twice was not expected to make it. One night he was visited by a doctor and nurse. Cruz recalls the doctor’s words: “Well, we’re not going to sugar-coat it. We’re going to be honest with you. You might die tonight. We’ve got a yellow legal pad right here. If there’s anything you might want to write to anybody, now’s the time.” There was also plenty of support of his family — wife Ilka, sons Carlos and Santana and daughter Neveah and Amiyah, father Antonio Sr. (who also in the hospital with COVID but released before his son) and mother Lucy. “It wasn’t your time,” is what Lucy Cruz told her son of why he survived and recovered. Baseball also played a big part. “Legion was always on my mind,” says Cruz, the manager of the South Bend American Legion Post 151 senior baseball team. “It gave me a reason to keep fighting and get out of there.” Drawing strength from messages sent by coaching friends including John Kehoe, Joel Reinebold, Tom Washburn and Dennis Ryans. “You don’t forget that stuff,” says Cruz. “It means a lot to me.” While the pandemic caused American Legion Baseball to cancel its state, regional and national tournaments in 2020, Indiana teams were allowed to play games if they could provide their own insurance. Cruz got out of the hospital and with air bottle in tow came to the place he considers his home away from home — the baseball field. Jim Reinebold Field — named for the late Indiana High School Baaeball Coaches Association Hall of Famer — is where the South Bend Clay High School Colonials play and Cruz serves as an assistant coach and home to Post 151, though COVID caused cancellation of the high school season and had the Legion team playing home games at South Bend’s Boland Park in 2020. For his baseball foundation, Cruz looks back to his days at Maurice Matthys Little League, where his coach from 12 to 16 was Terry Cline. “He is who I pattern my coaching style after,” says Cruz of Cline. “He was about caring and giving back.” As a player at South Bend LaSalle High School, where he graduate in 1997, Cruz played for Lions head coach Scott Sill. Cruz was a coach on Kehoe’s staff at South Bend Washington High School and also led the baseball program at Dickinson Middle School — going 23-1 in two seasons — then joined Joel Reinebold at Clay. “Joel is so supportive,” says Cruz. “I’ve been blessed to be around him for so many years.” Carlos Cruz (now 23) and Santana Cruz (21) both played for the Colonials, graduating in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Carlos attended Indiana State University for three years. Santana also played at Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind. Neveah Cruz (who turned 19 July 12) has been around Clay baseball from seventh grade until the present and has been a student manager, director of operations and coach. This summer, 2020 Clay grad and Sport and Recreation major at Trine University in Angola, Ind., is Post 51 Juniors (17U) team manager and assistant coach to her father with the Post 51 Seniors (19U). “It’s a good bonding experience with my dad,” says Neveah. “I’ve met a lot of good people through baseball — role models.” Being around teams has given Neveah something more. “I have a lot of older brothers now,” says Neveah. Youngest daughter Amiyah is 11. This is the sixth year Tony Cruz has coached American Legion ball. When Lenny Kuespert was no longer able to manage South Bend Post 50, Cruz started Post 357. He was 357 manager for two summers and after guidance from former Bristol Post manager Jim Treadway and Legion baseball organizer Joe Kusiak and consulting with post commander Mike Vargo has led Post 151 since the 2018 season. “Legion ball is good for families who can’t afford to play travel ball, which can be salty,” says Cruz. Post 151 baseball is supported through $650 registration fees and fundraisers to cover things like insurance, uniforms, hat, socks, field rental, umpires and, in the advent of rain, field conditioner. If there’s any money left over, Cruz use it to buy Legion shirts etc. for his players. “I always give back to the kids,” says Cruz. “It’s not about me.” Custom COVID masks were purchased as well a Post 151 visors for players’ mothers. Believing that Legion baseball is also a tribute to veterans and patriotism, Cruz outfits his squads in red, white and blue uniforms. American Legion teams are allowed to roster 18 players for the postseason. There is a total enrollment limit of 6,000 in the top three grades for the high schools that provide players. Besides Santana Cruz at Ancilla, athletes who have played for Cruz and gone on to college baseball include Hunter Aker at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., Robbie Berger, J.P. Kehoe, Mason Ryans and Andrew Washburn at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Tyler Bortone at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Tyler Cuma at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Gabe Galvan at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Nathaniel Garcia at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Chris Gault, Cooper Lee, A.J. Klimek, Andy Migas and Lee Timmons at Trine, Colin Greve at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., Dylan Hensley at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Roman Kuntz and Bryce Lesher at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., Michael Payne at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., Hunter Robinson at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Ind., Cole Steveken at Ancilla, Chantz Stover at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., Tony Valle at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., Cameron Waters at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Community College and Gabe Yonto at BCA College Post Grad in Knoxville, Tenn. Both 151 teams played about a dozen regular-season weekday games in 2021. Thursday, July 15 at 5 p.m. and following and Friday, July 16 at 5 (if necessary), South Bend Post 151 hosts Bristol Post 143 in best-of-3 Regional 3 at Jim Reinebold Field for a berth in the eight-team State Finals Friday through Tuesday, July 23-27 at Highland Park in Kokomo. Other feeder regionals are slated at Highland Post 180 Regional 1-2 (with Valparaiso Post 94, East Chicago Post 369/Lake Station Post 100 Region Legion Expos and South Haven Post 502), Regional 4 at Kokomo Post 6 (with Lafayette Post 11 and Muncie Post 19), Regional 5 at Terre Haute Post 346 (with Crawfordsville Post 72 and Sullivan Post 139), Regional 6 at Jasper Post 147 (with Washington Post 121) and Regional 7 at Rockport Post 254 (with Newburgh Post 44 and Boonville Post 200). As State Finals host, Kokomo will represent Regional 4 with the other highest finisher also advancing. The top two at Highland and the winner at the other sites will move on. Vera Cruz Tree Service has tended to customers in the South Bend, Ind., area for four decades. Recently, Tony Jr. took over the running of the family business from his father. Not long after the Legion season ends comes the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp (the instructional league is heading into its 27th year). Between seasons and conditioning, Cruz is involved with baseball about 10 months a year. The diamond — and what it represents — is his passion.
Ray Dix III is using baseball and education to help youngsters in northwest Indiana. A 2001 Merrillville High School graduate and former East Chicago American Legion Post 369 player, Dix guides to diamond programs for the Region Legion Expos (E.C. Post 369/Lake Station Post 100) and Calumet New Tech High School in Gary. “Post 369 is near and dear to my heart,” says Dix. “Bob Castillo, (father) Alonzo Olvera and (son) Juan Olvera kept it going for a long time.” Dix expresses his gratitude to the late Joe Kusiak. “My organization does not exist without Joe,” says Dix of the man who died in 2019. “He made it his personal mission to make sure some inner city kids got the same opportunities as suburban kids.” The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost. “We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.” Dix notes that there was an Chamber of Commerce event with Gary native and former big leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins. Initiatives by the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Home Field Advantage and MLB’s Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) were gaining traction before the pandemic. The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost. “We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.” The 2021 season marks the fifth for the Region Legion Expos and there are senior (19U) and junior (17U) squads. While recent rains have taken games away, both teams scheduled around 20 regular-season games. Most senior games have been played at the Kenny Lofton Baseball Complex in East Chicago with junior games at the former Lake Station Little League. In the future, Dix expects that the Region Legion Expos will play home games at Calumet New Tech (the field was built on the campus just a few years ago) and renovated E.J. Block Stadium in East Chicago. Tim Stoddard played for Post 369 and East Chicago Washington High School (later consolidated into East Chicago Central) at Block on his way to the majors. RLE are in the Michiana League along with Bristol Post 143, Highland Post 80, South Bend Post 151 and Valparaiso Post 94 in Indiana, Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204 in Michigan and Palos Park Post 1993 in Illinois. “We hope to grow the league,” says Dix, who is assisted by East Chicago Central High School head coach Jimmy Flores. “We stay away from days that Babe Ruth games are scheduled to give kids more chances to play baseball.” The plan is for league coaches to meet this fall to map out an even larger schedule for next season. “We hope to get more Legion teams,” says Dix. “We’re growing every year. We have more junior teams. “When I played 20 years ago almost everybody had a Legion team. It’s great competition. We don’t see a bad team all summer. Nobody’s bad. That’s what I love about it.” The 2021 junior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Post 100 Region Riptide, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is scheduled for July 8-11 at Hobart. The senior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Highland Post 80, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is slated for July 15-18 at Highland. While the COVID-19 pandemic took away what was going to be Dix’s first season at Calumet in the spring of 2020, the Legion team had an abbreviated season without a state tournament last summer. “We were wiping down everything,” says Dix. “We had no (COVID) cases.” The ’21 Calumet New Tech Warriors had 15 players on the roster. Dix was assisted by former Gary Roosevelt and Bowman Academy head coach Kevin Bradley (who had Dix as an assistant at Bowman) plus Daniel Wendrickx and scorekeeper Steve Heck. This week after the Region Legion Expos played Palos Heights the two sides went through an actual handshake line — something not allowed during the high school season in the spring though teams tipped their caps at the end of games. “I didn’t know how much I missed the handshake line,” says Dix. “We show each other respect for what you just went through. “Even at the MLB level, guys shake hands with (their teammates).” The Region Legion Expos have sent Gary West graduates Antonio Reed (Clark Atlanta University) and Zamare Vincent (Calumet College of Saint Joseph), Merrillville alums Thomas Butler (Ancilla College and University of Indianapolis), Darius Kendall (Purdue University Northwest) and Thomas Smith (Bethel University) and Portage grads Shayne Devine (Trine University) and Kody McGuire (Goshen College) on to college baseball while Christian Ayala (Hammond Bishop Noll) and Dylan Coty (Merrillville baseball and basketball) have received offers. “I’ve been very fortunate to have some talented players,” says Dix, who has watched others stay out of trouble, go on to trade schools and become productive citizens. Dix, son of former Gary and current Fort Wayne minister Ray Dix Jr., and retired secretary Jewel Cody and grandson of former steelworker and court bailiff Ray Dix Sr., makes sure players are making their grades and get SAT preparation assistance. He is three semesters from his education degree, which he will likely complete at Purdue University Northwest. “If I get to teach high school and coach baseball I will not work for the rest of my life,” says Dix. “I will be walking in my purpose and be forever grateful.” Dix says area youth coaches and organizers at all levels try to stick to together for the good of the kids. “The goal to always have a safe space,” says Dix. “We all see the writing on the wall. “We don’t want to see it die.” It’s people like Bentley Ellis at Glenn Park Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken in Gary and Tracy Brough, president of Calumet Region Little League, which in 2021 included Duneland Park, Lake Station and Roosevelt Park and had about 150 players at all ages. Bradley, Ellis and Brough are on the CRLL board. “We’re a feeder group for American Legion ball,” says Brough. “Players age out of Little League (4 to 16) and can keep playing.” During the offseason, a group called the Gary United Baseball Collaborative was formed to meet in the offseason and discuss options for area youth. “We see how can we increase the opportunities for kids with their skill levels, training and experiences,” says Brough. “We cross-post (on social media) and communicate in the offseason so (players and their families) know what’s going on.” At Merrillville High, Dix played two seasons for Fenton Macke and two for Zac Wells. “Other than with Coach Castillo, I have not learned more on the mental side of baseball than I did in the few conversations I had with Coach Macke,” says Dix. “He had an amazing way of getting young people to think the game. This is how you stay in the lineup. “That is what you want once you get to the high school level and beyond. You find your niche and work it and that trickles to life. That stuck with me as a 14-year-old kid.” Dix admires Macke and current Washington Township head baseball coach Randy Roberts — men who know what its like to each at the middle school level and coach high schoolers. “If you have them from sixth grade on, they already know what you want (in high school),” says Dix, who plans add a middle school baseball at Calumet in the fall. “They know the style. “Everything is about relationship-building.” Wells, who also coached Ray’s little brother Rahdric Dix (Merrillville Class of 2007 who went on to play at Butler University and the University of Southern Indiana), was a three-sport start for the Pirates who had the ability to break down the intricacies of an athletic task. “Absolute tactician,” says Dix of Wells. “He had that Innate ability to show you the technical part of the game. “I use his hitting methods to this day.” Rahdric was Ray III’s first trainee and he’s had many since. Dix indicates that he would like to eventually be able to direct a program that includes players as young as 8. “It’s about being able to create uniformity and consistency,” says Dix.