Grassroots game plan

SANDUSKY The winning formula for the Sandusky American Legion Post 83 baseball team this summer has
Mark Hazelwood
May 24, 2010



The winning formula for the Sandusky American Legion Post 83 baseball team this summer has been a simple one that goes back to the  grassroots of America’s great past time: pitching, defense an just enough hitting.

The combination of those three aspects has led Post 83 (28-9) back to the American Legion state tournament for a sixth time, beginning Monday in Athens.

The team also achieved a first in the process, becoming the first from Sandusky to ever reach the state tournament from the loser’s bracket.

“Fortunately for us, we didn’t get in that losers bracket early,” Post 83 coach Ray Neill said.  “We won the first two to get to  the winner’s bracket finals, then lost a heartbreaker in extra innings on a home run.

“But a big key was Andrew (Chafin) didn’t pitch a whole lot of innings early in the summer due to some other commitments, so he was well rested and he has a pretty resilient arm. He was then able to come back for us on two days and get his team a win and back on track.”

A 9-1 victory against Fremont in the loser’s bracket led to a  situation in which Post 83 had  to beat Mansfield twice to advance to state, and the team did so in convincing fashion with scores of 10-5 and 12-2.

Chafin (Western Reserve) started on two days’ rest in the final win over Mansfield, while Ryan Krumlauf (Perkins) also pitched on three days rest and Danbury’s Michael Hamann pitched the seventh inning to finish off the victory and  tournament championship.

“Hamann needed that extra day, so that’s where we needed Link (Conger) to step up and pitch for us with our backs against the wall,” Neill said. “We just needed him to give us a chance to win offensively, and he did that while Michael was able to pitch relief for us in both of the final two games.

“Ryan after two days also came back to pitch three innings the final game and he too has a pretty resilient arm for the most part as long as you don’t overload it. With the velocity of these three guys, they’ve been able to beat most hitters with their fastball and haven’t had to use any breaking balls a lot, which puts a little more strain on their arms.”

Offensively this season for Post 83, Cody Koch (Perkins) was batting .417 with four doubles, two home runs and 28 RBI heading into Wednesday’s regular season finale win over Strongsville.

Krumlauf is batting .326 with nine doubles, a triple, 11 RBI and 10 stolen bases while Jared Patton (Perkins) is batting .383 with five doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI. All three hitters have garnered over 80 at-bats this season to lead the team, while Andrew Enderle (Norwalk) also has over 80 at-bats and is batting .263 with three doubles, a home run and 10 RBI.

Other top hitters include Kyle Gonya (Port Clinton), who is batting .423 with four doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI, Matt Gundlach (Perkins), who is batting .394 with two doubles and 11 RBI and Conger (SMCC), who is batting .276 with three doubles, one home run and 10 RBI.

“We’ve been very good in the infield defensively,” Neill said. “With Koch predominantly at first base, Patton at second and Gundlach at short, those guys have done a very good job. Then we’ve mixed between Krumlauf and Hamann at third when they don’t pitch.”

At catcher, Neill has rotated three guys due to some sluggish offense from the position.

“Our three catchers in Joe Consolo (Bellevue), Eric Hahn (Huron) and Tyler Dix (Perkins) have done a great job for us in calling and receiving games. None of the three really took control offensively, so it’s been an even rotation. Even within a game we’ve played two or all three of them in situations.”

Neill said the outfielders are in the same boat as the catchers.

“In the outfield we’ve got six or seven guys that is somewhat similar to the catching situation,” he said. “All have done a decent job defensively, but none have done anything with the bat that says ‘I’m going to play everyday,’ so we’ve done the lefty-righty rotation with them and it’s been successful for us.”

The offensive woes have not hurt the team, however.

“They have all been good teammates about it,” Neill said. “They come to the park not knowing who is going to play that day, but they’ve accepted how we’re going to do it.

That is part of the reason we’ve had the success we’ve had. They are mature about it and we have an 18-man roster that for the most part has seen 17 of them here every day.”

In Wednesday’s regular season finale against another state qualifier in Strongsville, Post 83 picked up a 9-5 win that saw Neill split the work in preparation for the state tournament between Hamann, Krumlauf, Chafin and Scott Hacker (Perkins) on the mound.

Post 83 will not find out its first opponent until late Sunday night, where all 12 teams will get together and names are drawn out of a hat in no particular order to determine the first round pairings.

Each team will then play just one game Monday in the double-elimination tournament to assure all 12 teams of staying for a second day of action.

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