PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Post 23 baseball has a fever, and the only prescription is live baseball.
Luckily for the Portsmouth Post 23 Seniors team, as well as first-year head coach Drew Lowe, the return of live sports is eminent — after the cancelled Ohio High School Athletic Association spring sports season and numerous Scioto County Little League organizations.
Post 23 begins its over-30-game season on Saturday (June 13) with a doubleheader in Portsmouth versus Ashland Post 76 (Ky.) — with a team mixed with experienced Legion players and newcomers who’ve shown excellent promise in the early few weeks of practice.
“Just from my two years playing and being around the last couple of years, this is the best group in terms of team camaraderie,” Lowe said. “They’ve really come together. I can just tell the relationships and friendships they’ve made going into three weeks now are really there. It doesn’t matter with this group if you’re from Wheelersburg, Clay, Valley or just finished playing a year of college baseball.”
Lowe, a junior pitcher at Shawnee State and 2017 graduate of Sciotoville East, takes over the head coaching reigns of Post 23 — after serving as an assistant under former coach Brady Knittel.
“Being there last year was an eye-opening experience,” Lowe said. “Being out of the game at the high school level for three years now, it’s fun to get back into it. It’s fun to help the local community.”
Lowe was also the victim of a season cancellation when the NAIA cancelled its spring sports season during the height of the coronavirus pandemic scare in mid-March.
In addition to this summer being about improving his team and winning every contest, it’s also a stepping stone for Lowe in the winding road of coaching which he calls his passion.
“For me, coaching is my passion and that’s what I plan on doing for the rest of my life,” Lowe said. “Having this opportunity in my community is a privilege to me and an experience I’m not going to take for granted.”
Of the 15 players on the Post 23 Seniors team, nine are class of 2021 or younger, while the remaining six either recently graduated as a member of the class of 2020 or last year in the class of 2019.
It’s a team dominated by players who will in theory have the opportunity to play past this season — with Post 23 helping continue establish the Legion’s returned success.
It also means that for many of its players, their success this summer could help further improve their standing among college coaches, or open the eyes of college recruiters who may not have seen them on their radar previously.
“When we talk about kids wanting to play college baseball and wanting to play at the next level, that summer between your junior and senior seasons is the biggest chance for you to break out, recruiting-wise” Lowe said. “If you’re going to have a season where you’re getting noticed by college coaches, that’s this spring or summer for that class of 2021.”
Seth Nichols, a 2019 graduate of Rock Hill, is the lone player from that class on Post 23’s Senior team — while Logan Hankins, a 2020 senior from Rock Hill, additionally made the roster.
High school players from Clay, Wheelersburg, Valley and West which saw their 2020 spring sports season cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic comprise 14 of the 15 spots on the Post 23 Senior team.
From the 2019 SOC I (Southern Ohio Conference) co-champion Clay Panthers, Reece Whitley, Caleb McNutt, Dakota Dodds and Jaden Jessee made the Post 23 roster this summer.
From Wheelersburg, Case Dyer, Elias Robson, Braden Horr, Mason Montgomery, Hunter Thomas, Chase Conley and Ethan Ison also made the unit.
Blake Wood from Valley and Cade McNeil from West, class of 2021 and 2020 respectively, fill out the remainder of the Senior team.
“As a whole, I think we’re going to be very good on the mound,” Lowe said. “We’ve got some leadership on the mound with (Dakota) Dodds and (Reece) Whitley, but even with Ethan Ison and Elias Robson, I think those four guys put us pretty strong on the mound.”
With time away from the diamond being as long as three months for some on the team, Lowe stated one of the program’s top priorities is getting its players as many chances to hit, in game action, as possible.
Practice makes perfect, and with 30 games in give-or-take 37 days, the Post 23 Senior team will have its work cut out for it when stepping up to the plate.
“Over the first couple of weeks we realized the bats are going to struggle,” Lowe said. “Seeing a live arm doesn’t relate to hitting off a tee. We keep talking about repetition which will really be key — how many reps can we get?”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved