VALPARAISO — With his La Porte American Legion Post 83 team facing a 2-0 hole and six outs to work with in their second game of the day Saturday afternoon at Valparaiso High School, coach Kevin McGuire had no doubt his ragtag bunch would find a way out of the deficit, even toward the end of a long, hot day of baseball.
That's exactly what they did.
Using three straight doubles after two quick outs to lead off the inning, Post 83 Hamon Gray rallied to level the Junior Division contest against the Region Legion Expos at 2-2, forcing a tie that would stand as RLE had to play another game immediately after.
"With a different group of kids, (energy) would probably be a problem," McGuire said when asked about playing back-to-back games in 90-degree weather.
"This group of kids, not so much. Their energy is always high. Sometimes, it's not always positive, but they're always ready to make something happen. It was a long day today, but I'm proud of the way they fought back and battled."
McGuire used all 13 players he had on board Saturday, taking advantage of that flexibility in the Legion rules compared to the prep scene to keep guys out of the sun for extended periods of time. Post 83 started their lengthy 14-inning doubleheader with a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Valparaiso Post 94 Black. They followed by leaving nine men on base in the second half of the double dip, but still managed a tie in their first matchup of the Legion season against the Expos.
"Our issue has been situational hitting," McGuire said. "We're always getting guys on base, but it's finding the right pitches and bringing those guys in. We're looking at too many fastballs. You can look at the curveball, but when two or three guys in front of you are getting first-pitch fastballs, it's probably safe to assume you're getting that same pitch. We have to jump on those more."
Despite having at least one runner reach second base in four of the first five innings, Post 83 couldn't quite break through, while the Expos used a walk, an error in center and back-to-back sacrifices — one being a fly ball to center — to plate a pair and take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.
"Our pitching was phenomenal today," McGuire said. "They really did a good job throwing strikes and limiting the damage. We're missing two of our other higher-seeded pitchers, but our depth has been fantastic this year and we have some really good utility kids. We've got guys that can play just about everywhere."
Alex Contreas reached on one of his two hits in the contest and stole second and third base, but was gunned down on a close call at the plate after Noah Christian's fly ball was caught in right. Contreas followed that up two innings later with the second of the three consecutive doubles to make it 2-1 after his long fly ball down the left-field line scored Nick Lemon in the sixth. Evan Cizewski laced a game-tying double to score Contreas three pitches later.
"The big thing for me with these guys compared to high school is quality at-bats," McGuire said. "They'll learn the small-ball stuff in high school from their coaches. The kids are all talented kids, but my goal is to give these kids quality at-bats and help their approach at the plate."
La Porte Post #83 2, Region Legion 2
Alex Contreas had two hits and two steals.