Better than halfway through their first season of American Legion baseball, Smyrna Post 14 has more than held their own.
Entering this week’s play, Post 14 sits just a game behind defending state champion Canal Post 25 in the Southern Division.
Smyrna has nailed down a solid rotation of pitchers and lately, their offense has followed suit.
After opening the season with two wins Smyrna went into a slump, dropping five of their next six games. However, since a 7-4 loss to Fox Post 2, Smyrna has rallied off wins in five of their last six to get back into the postseason hunt.
“I think they’ve progressed very well,” said Smyrna Post 14 manager Mike Dulin. “In the beginning we were really just trying to find out who could do what out there.”
Smyrna would need pitching if they hoped to compete with the rest of the league.
“We had very little experience with pitching outside of Jeremy Carrow,” Dulin said. “This year, we’ve had some kids up there who have never stepped on the mound, [Nate] Ridgeway, [Andrew] Unterreiner, [Nevin] Bell, [Hunter] Barr and [Caden] Naylor, these guys hardly did any pitching all year, if at all, but they’ve stepped in there and done well.”
Along with the likes of Carrow and Jared Gillis, the rest of the makeshift pitching staff has given the team a huge boost.
Post 14 has seen offensive contributions up and down the lineup, seeing big games from the likes of Gillis, Brandt Penuel, Ryan Seymour, Brendan Davis and Zack Zlock, to just name a few.
Overall, it’s the team’s mentality toward every game that has Dulin excited, not only about how the team has played this season so far, but what they could accomplish.
“The bats have come around with guys getting more comfortable,” Dulin said. “Our pitching has learned from their mistakes, knowing when you’ve got a batter down 0-2 you don’t want to give a guy anything he can groove into the outfield; you want to make a pitcher’s pitch, not a hitter’s pitch. All of those things have come together now.”
The team is certainly focused on winning. However, they’re still intent on completing the most important goal they set for themselves at the beginning of the year.
“It wasn’t so much about going out there and winning everything, winning is fun and that’s what I want to them to do, but the other goal that I had was that everyone plays,” Dulin said. “When we have doubleheaders there isn’t one kid that shows up that day that doesn’t play in one of those games. In order for Legion to work, kids have to feel a part of it. We’re going to win as a team and we’re not going to go out there and win every day with just nine guys.”
Dulin also took time to credit his players for their dedication , knowing the strain the Legion season can put on players.
“I tip my cap to them,” Dulin said. “You’re playing four games a week, working through work schedules, playing doubleheaders on your Saturdays and you’re traveling. It’s a lot of time in a six-week program, so it’s pretty hectic.”