Ohio Legion tournament arrives
Jefferson County, Toronto, Brilliant have common goal set beginning Friday
STEUBENVILLE — Tournament time is here again.
The Ohio Region 7 American Legion baseball tournament is scheduled to get under way Friday afternoon at Coshocton, and the tournament final is scheduled to be played Monday.
“Jefferson County is the favorite,” Brilliant Post 573 coach Mickey Nest said, following Post 573’s 4-2 loss to Post 33 Friday at Vaccaro Field. “I haven’t seen a single score from Coshocton. I don’t even know if Coshocton has a team.”
That loss dropped Brilliant to 9-10 on the season.
The blind draw for the tournament was held this past Sunday.
“We want to keep improving and keep getting better every day,” Jefferson County Post 33 head coach Anthony Pierro said Friday, as his team’s regular season was winding down.
Three local teams (Jefferson County, Brilliant and Toronto Post 86) will be competing in the five-team double-elimination tournament.
“We are peaking at the right time,” Toronto head coach Steve Sninchak said Sunday, following his team’s victory against Weirton at home.
The two other teams in the tournament are the Coshocton Post 65 Cherokees and Cowle (Conneaut) Post 151/the Ohio Bruisers.
While the local teams have all played each other, none of them have played the Cherokees or the Bruisers.
Post 65 was scheduled to play a doubleheader against Post 86 on June 16 at the Knights Baseball Complex, but the games were canceled several days in advance due to Coshocton not having enough players to play.
Toronto will face the Bruisers in Game 1 of the tournament on Friday at 1 p.m. Jefferson County will play Coshocton in Game 2 at 4 p.m.
Three games are scheduled to be played Saturday.
Brilliant will play the winner of Game 1 at 1 p.m. The losers from the first two contests will play in an elimination game (Game 4) at 4 p.m. The winner of Game 2 will play the winner of Game 3 in Game 5, which is slated to start at 7 p.m. The winner of Game 5 will advance to the tournament final (Game 8), which is currently scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday.
There will be two loser’s bracket games Sunday. Game 6 is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., while Game 7 is slated to begin at 4 p.m.
“I like the way we are playing,” Nest said.
The Armstrong Grizzlies defeated Jefferson County, 7-4, on July 8 at Vaccaro Field. Post 33 has not lost a game since, going 6-0-1 after that.
To prepare for the upcoming tournament, Post 33 played a doubleheader against Elkins Post 29 and South Charleston Post 94 this past Sunday in Elkins.
“It helped us prepare for the regional tournament,” Pierro said Monday following his team’s 6-1 victory against St. Clairsville Post 159 Monday evening. “It was good competition. It was good baseball. We like playing against good baseball teams. That is why we drove three hours to play those games. We want to face good pitching. We want to face good teams. That will prepare us for the regional tournament.”
After a late start to the season due to the Toronto high school baseball team winning the Division IV state championship, Post 86 has played its best baseball in the games leading up to the regional tournament, including an impressive three-game winning streak. Toronto outscored its opponents, 35-3, during that stretch.
“We want to stay hot hitting the ball,” Toronto coach Greg Herrick said following Post 86’s 12-1 victory against Post 159 Saturday at home.
Toronto has gotten better throughout the season, and its recent games have been proof of that.
“I like the way we were playing,” Herrick said. “The kids are confident.”
Toronto began and ended its winning streak with wins against Weirton Post 10. Post 86 won the first game, 17-1, this past Friday, before recording a 6-1 victory Sunday. Both contests were played at home, even though Toronto acted as the road team on Friday because Weirton’s field was not ready.
The game was the fourth straight in which the starting pitcher for Post 86 threw a complete game.
“The kids are realizing if you throw strikes and play good defense, good things are going to happen,” Sninchak said.
Sninchak credited his team’s offensive surge due to his team’s hitters taking good approaches at the plate.
“They have had real good approaches,” he said. “They are going to the plate with a purpose. They understand you have to have a purpose every at-bat and every pitch. Our out-of-towners are starting to understand that. Everybody is buying in.”
Toronto and Jefferson County capped off the regular season by playing for the third time this season Tuesday night in Toronto. Post 33 won, 6-5, to improve to 37-7-1.
Jefferson County won all three games against Toronto (6-9) during the regular season, as well as both games against Brilliant.
“This game is a good barometer for us,” Nest said about his team’s loss to Jefferson County. “We can see where we are at. Jefferson County has earned the right to be the barometer.”
Post 33 defeated Post 86, 10-0, in six innings in the tournament final last season at Toronto to advance to the state tournament in Lancaster.
Jefferson County’s goal is to win the tournament again.
“We just want to keep getting better going into the regional tournament,” Pierro said Friday. “We want to be able to compete at the tournament, and we want to win it.”