At the beginning of the summer, one of the primary missions for La Porte Post 83 Hamon Gray was to qualify for the state tournament.
Now that it’s there, Post 83 isn’t content with just making it.
La Porte Post 83, an American Legion Junior Division baseball team comprised of players from La Porte, Michigan City and South Central high schools, will compete in the five-team state tournament Thursday through Sunday in Kokomo.
La Porte coach Kevin McGuire said possibly claiming the state tournament would be gigantic.
“It’d be huge for a lot of these kids, because a couple of these kids got cut from their baseball teams, a couple of these kids were asked not to play on their high school traveling varsity teams,” McGuire said. “So they’ve got a little chip on their shoulder and they’re out to prove something to their varsity coaches that, ‘Hey, we do have what it takes and we’re ball players.’ It’d also be huge for the program itself, just to try to market and try and get more people interested as we move forward.”
While Post 83 lost 13-3 to Kokomo in Sunday’s regional final, it punched its ticket to the state tournament due to the fact Kokomo got an automatic bid to state as it was the host, so La Porte also advanced. Post 83 faces Valparaiso Post 94 in that tournament on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Kokomo’s CFD Investment Stadium at Highland Park.
Despite his squad finishing 1-2 in the regional, McGuire is optimistic based on the way La Porte’s offense has been producing lately.
“We’re definitely hitting the ball as well as we have all season, so that’s good,” he said. “We’re starting to peak at the right time. It helps now having a true lineup.”
McGuire mentioned the coaches mixed in some players to try and give them some at-bats to have them ready for the regional and the state tournament, but have recently settled into a consistent batting order.
“We had some very good hits last weekend,” McGuire said. “We probably hit the ball as hard as we have all season, so that was good to see. And not just one or two players but consistently we’ve seen that throughout the lineup.”
In the regional, La Porte split its first two contests, losing 10-0 in six innings to Kokomo, but rebounding to drub Bristol Post 143, 12-2 in five innings.
Against Kokomo in the opener, Luke Swistek and Alex Contreas paced Post 83 each with two hits. In the latter contest against Bristol Post 143, Contreas and Dominic Miller both ripped RBI doubles, while Nick Lemon, Contreas and Evan Cizewski all drove in runs in a five-run fourth inning. Contreas, Miller and Collin Howard all finished with two hits. Noah Christian was the winning pitcher, giving up two runs on one hit in five innings while striking out two.
Players on Post 83 are La Porte High School’s Cizewski, Howard, Miller, Nathan Galinowski, Cayden George, Caleb McGuire, Spencer Noveroske, and Riley Attar, Michigan City High School’s Lemon, Contreas, Swistek and Luke Poulin. Christian and Seth Kupres are walk-ons from La Porte High School, meaning they didn’t play on their high school varsity, junior varsity or freshman teams. Andrew Huizar is a walk-on from South Central High School.
Coach McGuire believes Lemon might make an impact in the state tournament, along with exceptional pitching from his club.
“A factor might be Nick Lemon,” he said. “He’s been pretty strong here at the end of the season, hitting the ball well. Both offensively and defensively he’s done quite well. And also in the dugout he’s been a positive influence. When it comes down to it, our starting pitchers are going to have to throw some of the best games they’ve thrown ever against some quality teams.”
Post 83 fell 10-0 to Valparaiso Post 94 on June 17 in Valpo, its first-round opponent at state.
Other teams at state are Terre Haute Post 346 and Kokomo Post 6, in addition to Rockport Post 254. If La Porte wins its opener, it’ll meet Rockport Post 254 on Friday at 4 p.m. The title game is Sunday at noon. If that’s a team’s first loss, another championship game will be played right after the end of the previous contest to determine the champion in the double-elimination format.
“The biggest thing, obviously, is pitching, that’s going to be huge,” McGuire said. “But just not giving up extra bases when playing defense. We’ve been kind of notorious for that here in the regional, runners taking advantage of throws, and grabbing extra bases, and of course, that just leads potentially to more runs.”