PORTSMOUTH — When this week’s American Legion Region V Tournament begins, Portsmouth Post 23 will be sitting right where it’s wanted to be all year long.
The Dickeys (10-12) will enter the six-team tournament as the No. 2 seed, meaning they’ll get to enjoy a first round bye. Post 23 is also riding a three-game winning streak after beating Hillsboro 29 twice and Circleville 134 to end their regular season schedule.
“[The first round bye] is a huge advantage for us. We have had a few injuries and vacations this summer so we have lacked depth in pitching. So this is great for us,” 23 coach Brady Knittel said. “You know, we just plan to play one game at a time and if we can keep pounding the zone with strikes, we will be ok.”
Leading the charge in “pounding the zone with strikes” is certainly pitchers Marty Knittel and Dakota Dodds, two hurlers who have been pillars of the team’s success this summer.
While Portsmouth’s overall record may not tell the whole story, anytime Knittel and Dodds have taken the mound, the Dickeys have had a fighting chance to squeeze out a win.
“We have had a lot of success from our pitchers this summer. I think one contributing factor is being able to locate more than one or two pitches while they are on the mound,” Knittel said. “That makes a world of difference when you keep batters off-balance.”
Meanwhile, 23’s hitters have started to find their groove as well.
Led by players like Darius Jordan, Luke Lindamood, Reece Whitley, Breckon Williams, etc., 23’s offense has taken a turn for the better near the end of the season.
In fact, in the team’s final six games, it’s scored 32 runs … a welcome change to how it started the year.
“We have been putting the ball in play very well this summer. I think, right now, our guys’ approaches at the plate are great,” Knittel said. “I am super confident in our players to manufacture runs in the tournament as long as we stick to our approach.”
Near the end of the year, over the team’s last three games, 23 outscored its opponents by a 22-9 margin … seemingly peeking at the exact right time. Knittel hopes that mojo carries over.
“I think after the wins against Hillsboro and the win against Circleville last week, those got our guys in the right mindset to play some baseball,” Knittel said. “I expect them to come out fired up and put pressure all over our opponents.”
Portsmouth 23 begins its tournament run this Sunday, awaiting the winner of Chillicothe 757 or Harrison 199 in the winner’s bracket’s quarterfinals at 5:15 p.m., Sunday at VA Memorial Stadium.
“Two great teams with a ton of potential, but we just have to come out and play Dickeys’ baseball,” Knittel said. “No matter who we play, we will apply pressure and make them make plays.”