The Sidney Post 217 American Legion baseball team will make yet another lengthy road trip for a date with Utica this Monday at 2 p.m.
“Road Warriors,” for sure, and a team that has played a whopping 30 of its 34 games this summer away from Custenborder Field in Sidney, Post 217 is thankfully “not” on its way to Utica in Mohawk Valley in the center of New York State.
No, not that Utica. This one is closer to home and right here in the Buckeye State, situated several miles north of Newark, east of Columbus. And this opponent is also one that Sidney’s Region II championship squad is familiar with. It beat Post 92 of Utica, Ohio, 5-3, in the Lancaster Post 11 Fourth of July tournament.
Sidney hurler Xavier Phlipot of Russia High School scattered six hits and fanned eight in that complete game victory over Utica back on June 30.
The destination for this upcoming Post 217-Post 92 rematch is also Lancaster, southeast of Columbus. At the renowned Beavers Field on the north edge of the city, Sidney kicks off its participation in the 2023 American Legion Baseball State Tournament — a double-elimination competition from July 24 to 27, comprised of Ohio’s eight top legion programs that nailed down regional championships last week.
And Sidney Post 217 knows the way south on Route 33 off I-70 very well, having earned a spot in the Ohio statewide legion event six of the last seven years that Lancaster has been the tourney home.
Fresh off a District II title and victories over Greenville, 13-3, and Troy, 8-4 and 7-3, Post 217 remains red hot, having won eight of its last 10 outings. Once 9-14-1for the summer, head coach Jacob Peters’ club has now sneaked over the .500-mark with 17 triumphs.
The team batting average has crept up to better than .277 over the last dozen games or so. Gabe Link and Noah McEldowney continue to lead the way at the plate. Eight or nine different pitching arms have made major contributions in start and relief assignments spanning the 34 games played over the course of the summer.
“Everyone knows that summer legion baseball can conflict with players’ work schedules, vacation plans, football practices, and so on,” coach Peters explained. “But our 18-man roster has many interchangeable pieces. These are guys who can move around, fill multiple positions, and get the job done.”
Peters added, “Our team members play off each other’s strengths and function as a collective unit that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”
The coach alluded that a prime example of the great versatility of this Post 217 squad is senior-to-be Brayden Monnin from Russia, who is “a go-anywhere kind of player” with superb and varied skills that can accommodate “second and short, out in left or center, behind the plate and on the mound.”
Utica’s roster may not be as deep as Sidney’s, but it, too, has shown vast improvement since the start of the summer. Currently 14-16 after crushing Columbus West Post 532 this week and walloping Westerville, 10-2 and 17-1, to take the Region IV championship, Utica has become more potent offensively.
The bats of Utica hammered home 18 runs in whipping host Lancaster at the Post 11 annual holiday tourney on July 1. The club fashioned outstanding pitching in edging Troy, 3-2, also at Lancaster.
Head coach Tyler Osborne, in his fourth year at the helm of the Utica program, noted that his club’s hitting attack is paced by Alec Bennett, Chase Boroff and Aidyn Burgess — the top three in the batting order. Thomas Olon, who pitched for Division I Newark High School, is Utica’s ace hurler, coach Osborne said.
Utica’s roster includes next spring and 2023 graduates from several high schools east of Columbus including Newark, Newark Catholic, Watkins Memorial, Johnstown and Northridge.
The Sidney-Utica victor in the upper bracket of four legion programs returns to Beavers Field on Tuesday, July 25, at 11:30 a.m. to meet the Wooster-New Philadelphia winner. Meanwhile, the Sidney-Utica loser comes right back on Monday night at 7 to battle the Wooster-NP loser.
Wooster and New Philadelphia throw the first pitch on Monday at 9 a.m. to open the tournament.
Perennial power Lancaster will miss the event on its home turf after suffering two straight one-run setbacks to Pickerington in the Region VI state qualifier.
Tourney favorites Napoleon Post 300 and Yeager-Benson Post 199 in Harrison west of Cincinnati, which is last year’s state champ, are positioned in the lower bracket of four teams and can not square off with Sidney Post 217 until a winner’s bracket final on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Known as the River Bandits, Napoleon tangles with Beverly-Lowell Post 389/750 from Region VIII and Yeager-Benson is paired with Pickerington Post 283. If they both triumph on Monday, Napoleon and Yeager-Benson collide on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Napoleon nipped Findlay, 6-5, to advance to the state from Region I.
Yeager-Benson charged past Chillicothe, 14-5, in the “if” game to advance from Region V.
Barring weather delays or postponements, the final two games of the state tournament are set for July 27 at noon and later that same day at 3 p.m., if the two teams remaining have one loss apiece.
Beavers Field in Lancaster has been the state tournament venue for Ohio American Legion baseball since 2010. The complex features a beautiful, high quality, turf infield and a thick, neatly cropped, natural grass outfield.
The facility hosts nearly 200 baseball contests each year.