KOKOMO — Byron Cox Post No. 72 won its opening round game of the American Legion Indiana state finals tourney 4-2 over Muncie Post No. 19 on Friday afternoon.
Post 72 scored four runs in the bottom of the third and Fountain Central grad George Valencia tossed a complete game to advance the local legion team to Saturday’s second round game in which they’ll face Kokomo at 7 p.m. at Highland Park in Kokomo.
Valencia, who is Post 72’s ace, allowed just two hits, an earned run, walked a pair, and struck-out 13 in the win. He only allowed base-runners in the fourth and fifth innings and retired the side on strikes in the first and seventh innings. It makes the former Mustang unavailable for the rest of the tournament due to pitch count rules, but coach Kyle Proctor felt like they had to ride with their strongest pitcher.
“We had to stick with him,” Proctor said. “He had been doing well. We decided to go ahead and stick with him and get the win. You have to win the game to go to the next game.”
After Post 72 took a 4-0 lead, Muncie bounced back with two runs in the top of the fourth. Braden Danner reached on a hit by pitch to lead off the inning, while Gavin Noble reached on an infield single. Valencia gave up just one more hit, but a Post 72 error allowed the second run to score.
Post 72 got their runs in the third behind a pair of walks from North Montgomery grad Owen Gregg and Crawfordsville’s Austin Motz to lead off the inning. Jacob Braun and Valencia delievered the big hits with RBI doubles, while Cade Walker knocked in a run later in the inning.
That was it though offensively for Post 72.
“We didn’t play our best baseball, but I’ll take a dirty win over a clean loss any day,” Proctor said. “I told them to be aggressive at the plate. Some were too aggressive and he (Kokomo pitcher) wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes.”
Post 72 chased Muncie starter Noble out of the game after three innings, but were unable to add anything against reliever Chase Smith. In three innings of work, Smith allowed just two hits, walked two, and struck-out one.
Post 72 will carry its 18-10 record into Saturday against 11-14 Kokomo.