Over the course of the 2017 season, Matt Miller was lauded for his tremendous work in turning the East baseball program around.
Now, with Legion baseball in full swing, Miller is proceeding to lead the Post 23 programs to greener pastures, as well.
Behind the senior team’s clean sweep of Hillsboro to start its campaign, and three victories over Waverly Post 142, Cambridge Post 84, and Utica Post 92 by the junior leaguers, the Post 23 camp is off to a 5-1 roll between its two squads as the 2017 American Legion campaign kicks into full gear.
SENIOR LEAGUE ACTION — Post 23 Seniors at Hillsboro Post 129 (Sunday, June 4 doubleheader)
Game 1 — Portsmouth 2, Hillsboro 0
Behind the play of East’s Drew Lowe — who threw a complete game two-hitter while striking out seven — Portsmouth Post 23 was able to pick up a well-played 2-0 victory in what turned out to be a defensive battle.
Lowe, who only walked three batters en route to a 2.33-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, went 2-for-3 at the plate in putting together a multi-hit performance. Green’s Tayte Carver went 1-for-4 with a double and a RBI, and Minford’s Ethan Lauder went 1-for-1 with the second and final RBI to plate the difference-making runs.
“What a great league win to start the season,” East head coach Matt Miller said. “Drew pitched a heck of a game. He stayed around the zone all day and battled. We had a couple errors, but the boys pulled together and made the plays when we needed them.”
Green’s Tanner Kimbler, South Webster’s Bradley Gee, West’s Garrett Hurd, and Wheelersburg’s Athan Temponeras each collected a hit for Post 23, who grinded out the first game of the doubleheader behind its eight hits.
“We hit the ball pretty hard, but just hit too many up in the air,” Miller said. “Still, I’m very pleased with the win to open the season.”
Game 2 — Portsmouth 13, Hillsboro 3 (F/5)
In the second game of the day, however, Portsmouth left no doubt as to what the final result would be, as tremendous performances by Carver, Gee, Kimbler, Lauder, and Wheelersburg’s Jaydren Guthrie and Connor Mullins allowed Post 23 to blast past Post 129 in the second game of the twinbill via a 13-3, five-inning rout.
Portsmouth, who collected 14 hits in the contest, scored a whopping nine runs in the first inning alone en route to the mercy-rule victory — a pleasing quality that Miller took great pride in watching.
“We really came out and hit the ball hard this game, started hitting the ball on a line, and was able to put up nine runs in the first inning,” Miller said. “We continued putting the ball in play and hit it hard throughout the contest. Add that to good pitching and good fielding, and that’s a recipe for success.”
Guthrie, who obtained the start on the mound, threw three innings of three-hit baseball and surrendered just one earned run in the process.
With the game well in hand, Guthrie gave way to Gee, who pitched a near-spotless inning and two-thirds of baseball by striking out a pair and not allowing a hit in the runaway victory.
“Jaydren threw the bell well while he was in (the game),” Miller said. “He hasn’t pitched in a while, so he’s working his way back into form. Then Bradley came in and finished things off throwing well.”
At the plate, the super sophomore pairing of Carver and Kimbler were green-lighted all day long — and for good reason. The juniors-to-be combined to go 6-for-7 at the plate, with Carver collecting a pair of doubles and three RBI and Kimbler adding a double, a triple, and two RBI for good measure to set the tone for Post 23.
In addition to Green’s duo, Lauder, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Mullins, who notched a 2-for-4 effort with a double and a RBI, joined Carver and Kimbler in the multi-hit club. Gee (1-for-3, RBI), Unioto’s Billy Book (1-for-3, three RBI), Hurd, and Temponeras all collected one hit apiece.
“It was a great day for us,” Miller said. “To go on the road against a league opponent and come out with two wins to start the season is a great way to start off the year.”
JUNIOR LEAGUE ACTION — Post 23 Juniors at Kickoff Klassic Tournament, VA Memorial Stadium, Chillicothe
Game 1 (Thursday, June 1) — Portsmouth 9, Waverly 4
Behind a splendid four-inning effort from Clay’s Dakota Dodds, along with two-hit performances from West’s Cade Powell and Rock Hill’s Seth Nichols, the Portsmouth Post 23 Juniors collected a 9-4 victory over the Waverly Post 142 Junior Legion squad on Thursday evening at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe to open the Kickoff Klassic Tournament.
In his four innings of work, Dodds struck out five batters and walked only a pair for a 2.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The sophomore-to-be allowed just one hit over his four innings of play.
Powell, along with fellow West teammate Cade McNeil and Wheelersburg’s Braiden Cooper, combined to throw the final three innings, with McNeil throwing a clean seventh frame to seal the deal.
“It was a good win for us to start the year,” Miller said of his junior legion group. “Dakota threw the ball well and he was able to keep his pitch count down by pounding the strike zone. Braiden, Cade Powell and Cade McNeil also came in firing strikes which is always a good thing.”
Offensively, Powell and Nichols led the charge by combining to go 4-for-7 at the plate with two RBI. McNeil, along with Wheelersburg’s Jarrett Stamper, added a hit apiece in the win.
“We were able to put the ball in play offensively and make things happen,” Miller said. “It’s always good to come out with a win and I look for big things from this team going forward.”
Game 2 (Friday, June 2) — Portsmouth 12, Cambridge 2 (F/5)
The Post 23 Juniors continued their offensive roll into Friday, as Portsmouth rolled past Cambridge Post 84, 12-2, in five innings at VA Memorial Stadium to take home its second victory in as many days during the Kickoff Klassic in Chillicothe.
Post 23 was led by a strong hitting effort from Stamper, who went 2-for-3 with three RBI on the day. Gage Lucas went 1-for-1 in the contest with two RBI, and Clay’s Jaden Jessee and Reece Whitley combined to go 2-for-3 with two RBI on the evening.
“Offensively, we continued to put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense,” Miller said. “We were able to get runners on, get them over and get them in, which is always a good thing.”
On the hill, McNeil, along with Minford’s Bailey Rowe, combined to limit Post 84 to five hits and a single walk. The pair also combined to rack up three strikeouts on the evening by consistently keeping their pitches around the plate.
“Cade threw the ball well to get us going, and we played solid behind him,” Miller said. “He stayed around the strike zone and kept his pitch count down. Bailey came in and closed it out by pounding the zone and keeping Cambridge off balance.”
Game 3 (Saturday, June 3) — Portsmouth 3, Utica 2
In yet another well-played baseball affair, Portsmouth used a complete game seven-hitter from Powell, along with a go-ahead sacrifice fly from Jarrett Stamper in the top of the seventh inning, to obtain a 3-2 victory over Utica Post 92 on the third day of the Kickoff Klassic Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe on Saturday.
Powell, one of the promising young talents in Southeastern Ohio, struck out five and walked only two for a 2.5-to-1 strikeout ratio to put Post 23 in a position to take home the victory.
“It was a great ballgame between both teams,” Miller said. “Cade was outstanding today. He battled through some tough spots and was able to scatter the hits and limit Utica’s opportunities.”
In the top of the seventh inning, Minford’s Reid Shultz, who came in to pitch hit, collected a critical base knock to lead off the frame, and a wild pitch, along with an excellent sacrifice bunt by fellow Minford hand Brayden Davis, allowed Shultz to advance to third with one out in the frame. Stamper then followed with his sacrifice fly to plate Shultz as the go-ahead run.
“We were able to, once again, put the bat on the ball and keep the pressure on the opposing team to make the plays,” Miller said. “Executing small ball in the seventh inning in a 2-2 game is a big testament to the boys.”
Following Shultz’s 1-for-1 performance with a run scored and Stamper’s 1-for-3 mark with an RBI was McNeil, who went 2-for-2 with a run scored. Nichols and Minford’s Cole Ratcliff combined to go 2-for-5 with two RBI to help set the winning margin.
“It was a gritty win by these young men,” Miller said, “and I’m proud of the way they fought and battled the entire game.”
Game 4 (Saturday, June 3) — Chillicothe 6, Portsmouth 3
After taking home their first three affairs of the year, Portsmouth Post 23 couldn’t keep its run going for a fourth consecutive contest as Post 23 fell to Chillicothe Post 757, 6-3, on Saturday evening at VA Memorial Stadium.
Clay’s Reece Whitley and East’s Tyler Winston threw seven innings of five-hit baseball while combining for five strikeouts, but ultimately, their efforts weren’t enough as Post 757 was able to edge Post 23 to knock Portsmouth out of the Kickoff Klassic.
“The boys played well, but the breaks just didn’t go our way,” Miller said. “Reece really battled out there on the mound and gave everything he had to keep a good hitting ball club in check. Tyler came in, threw well, and gave us a chance.”
Offensively, Portsmouth actually outperformed Chillicothe at the plate, as Post 23, behind two hits apiece from McNeil, Stamper, and Whitley, along with base knocks from Powell and Shultz, garnered eight hits in the contest.
“We hit the ball well throughout the game,” Miller said. “We either hit it right at them or Chillicothe came up with an outstanding play. I told the boys after the game that I was proud of them. They battled all the way through and didn’t quit until the last out. Baseball is a tricky game sometimes and the breaks just didn’t go our way tonight. A 3-1 start to the season is still a good start, and we will get back to work and continue to get better.”
The Post 23 Seniors’ contest with Chillicothe Post 757 on Monday, which was scheduled for a 6 p.m. start time at Branch Rickey Park, was rained out and postponed as a result. They’ll play Jackson Post 81 on Thursday in Jackson at 5:30 p.m. and will turn right around to host a doubleheader with Sidney Post 217 on Saturday at 1 p.m., which will be played at Valley. Post 23 is 2-0 overall.
As for the Post 23 Juniors, they’ll hit the road for their next bout as well, as the junior league club will play Ashland Post 76 at 5:30 p.m. in Central Park.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7