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)
A just-concluded fall league featured 84 players — including some middle schoolers — from 22 different Indiana schools with some coming from as far as Terre Haute, Columbus and Fort Wayne.
Playing mostly daylight to dark on Sundays, seven teams competed at Muncie Central.
“Kids are starving to play,” says West, noting how all players lost the spring season and much — if not all — the summer to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a league designed to introduce kids to the high school game.”
It’s a also a revenue stream for the Bearcats program.
A 1974 graduate of Yorktown (Ind.) High School in Delaware County, West was a 5-foot-6, 155-pound left-handed pitcher for Tigers coach Joe Pena.
West got many hitters out using a a pitch with screwball action, meaning it ran into left-handed batters and away from right-handers.
Though injury limited his college career one season season, he pitched 31 innings and made three starts for the University of Louisville. He went the distance in a 3-2 loss to Indiana and notched another complete game in a 4-1 win against Xavier. He also earned a start in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament against Southern Illinois.
West landed at U of L when former Yorktown catcher Randy Delph — three years older than West — went to play for the Cardinals and recommended the left-hander to head coach Jim Zerilla.
“Don’t tell me you can’t make it,” says West. “I did.”
And not by throwing hard or racking up large strikeout totals — a lesson for his current players.
“The No. 1 thing is to throw the ball over the plate,” says West. “I don’t care how hard how hard you throw it if you can’t control it.
“Try to miss the barrel of the bat and get weak ground balls and and pop-ups. They got by pitch count now. The best inning in baseball is five pitches with two groundouts and a pop-up.
“I try to get my guys to think about pitching instead of just throwing.”
West’s assistant coaches are Ken Zvokel (the Muncie American Legion Post 19 Chiefs manager) plus Dave Garrett and Ball State University student Garris Rehfus.
While there are no college players among recent Muncie Central graduates, West sees potential.
“There are a couple of younger kids who have a chance if they work their hind end’s off,” says West.
After the injury that ended his college mound days, West came back home to work and raise a family. Norm and Jan West — who have been married for 45 years have three boys who all played baseball at Yorktown — Kyle (Class of 1996), Cory (Class of 2000) and Clay (Class of 2007). There are also three grandsons and three granddaughters. All live close-by for grandparents to get quality time.
“I really feel bad for the players who had already lost their high school and college seasons, especially the seniors who missed an opportunity for a final season of baseball with their friends,” says Zvokel. “In the end, the No. 1 concern is safety for our players, coaches and fans.
“Hopefully things clear and we can still get some baseball in this summer.”
Jill Druskis, Director of the Americanism Division of the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, says that national capstone American Legion youth programs are National Oratorical Contest, eight Baseball regional tournaments, Baseball World Series, Boys Nation and the shoulder-to-shoulder match of the Junior Shooting 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship.
“And the awarding of one of our national youth program scholarships has been affected this year as well,” says Druskis. “It is through the Boys State and Girls State programs that youth are afforded eligibility to apply for a Samsung American Legion Scholarship.
Entering his second season in 2019, Todd is emphasizing defensive communication and execution at the school in Gaston, Ind., northwest of Muncie.
“If you’re defense is bad, it’s hard to win even if you do hit,” says Todd. “We try to limit the free 90’s and win that battle every game.
“That gives us a chance to at least be in the game.”
During this IHSAA limited contact period, Todd’s Warriors have been in the small middle school gym on Wednesday or Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.
“We usually have stations for defensive reps or conditioning for an hour then do hitting and flat-mound bullpens for an hour,” says Todd. “We keep them working. Everybody is doing something. We don’t want anybody standing around. We’re getting a lot of things accomplished and getting better at all times.”
MEC teams play each other once at various times during the spring to determine a conference champion.
Todd says it has been announced that beginning in 2021 conference games will be played every Tuesday and Thursday with schedules being laid out around those days.
Non-conference opponents include Alexandria-Monroe, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Liberty Christian, Madison-Grant, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic, Southern Wells, Union City and Yorktown. The Delaware County tournament is slated for May 7 and May 11.
The home field is located behind the school on North Yorktown-Gaston Pike (North 600 West).
The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 1A grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del last won a sectional title in 2011.
Todd is assisted by Ken Zvokel (varsity) and Zach Tanner (JV) with occasional help from other volunteers. Mary Helen Bink has been a scorekeeper for Wes-Del for more than three decades.
A year ago, Wes-Del had 20 players in the program. Nine of those have graduated and two others are not expected back. Based on call-out meetings, Todd says he may have as many as 24 this spring.
The first official day of practice is March 11. Spring break for Wes-Del Community Schools is March 22-29. The baseball team is slated for open its season April 2 and have six games scheduled in the first eight days.
“Players have 10 practice to get before spring break,” says Todd, referring to the IHSAA rule for participation. “It’s imperative that they come to all practices.”
Wes-Del Youth Athletic Association provides baseball and softball for T-ball through age 12.
To provide baseball opportunities for middle schoolers, a team has been organized for Wes-Del boys that plays in the spring and summer.
Others Wes-Del athletes participate in the summer in the East Central Indiana League and in travel baseball.
Bob and Felicia Todd have two children — McKenzie (20) and Zack (15). Zack Todd is a freshman baseball player at Wes-Del and plays with the Indiana Nitro during the travel ball season.
Bob Todd is a 1996 graduate of Muncie South Side High School, where he played freshmen baseball when Larry Lewis was head coach.
Before taking the job at Wes-Del, Todd had coached in area travel ball organizations, including the Indiana Mojo.
Todd is employed as a general manager for American Pest Professionals, which has offices in Muncie and Marion.
The Todd family (from left): Felicia, Zack, Bob and McKenzie. Bob Todd is head baseball coach at Wes-Del High Sch