Post 70 ramps up for state

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, July 12, 2018

The American Legion Post 70 17U baseball team will open up play in the state tournament with a pair of games today in Birmingham.

It’s been a long, hot summer for head coach Ross Hixon and Post 70 and despite taking the last two weeks off, many of the players are beginning to feel the grind that is summer baseball.

“It’s coming at a good time because I think the guys are getting a little burned out,” Hixon said. “Including practice, most of the guys have been hitting or throwing a baseball since January. It’s getting hot and tiring, but I challenged them to push through to the finish line.”

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The finish line comes by way of the state tournament. Post 70 hasn’t played since a tournament in Mobile two weeks ago. With the players feeling the strain from the heat as well as other commitments coach Hixon and Post 70 elected to take some time off.

“We wanted to rest up for this last little push,” Hixon said. “We have had some really good efforts lately and then we have had some that is just going through the motions. They are getting tired both physically and mentally.”

Post 70 enters the tournament with a 16-6 record. Up to this point, their strengths have been on the mound from pitchers such as Jade Sikes and Drew Nelson.

“Pitching has carried us all summer,” Hixon said. “We have had really good efforts from almost everyone that we have thrown out there. We don’t score a lot of runs, but we don’t give up a lot either. We have had four or five main starters and then we have had two or three guys in relief.”

Post 70 made a run all the way to the championship game of the state tournament a year ago. Hixon hopes that experience for the returning players will pay dividends this time around.

“Last year we came up two innings short of winning state,” Hixon said. “We had a comfortable lead in the state championship game and let it slip through our hands a little bit. I have a lot of guys from last year’s team. I am hoping this weekend they remember the feeling of losing last year, giving them some added motivation.”

There will be a smaller number of teams participating in this year’s tournament. Last year 20 teams made the trip. This year it’s down to 13 and Hixon believes his squad to be one of the favorites to take home the trophy.

“On paper, I think we are the best team,” Hixon said. “We have played quite a few of the teams that are going to be there. No games are won on paper, but I would think we are the presumed favorite to win it. That means absolutely nothing, but hopefully they will be hungry after last year’s defeat.”

Post 70 will play two games on day one of the tournament. The will begin their first game at 8:30 and finish they day at 1:30 p.m. Each team will be seeded after their first two games. The single-elimination tournament will begin on Saturday.