KOKOMO — In a “win or go home” game, Byron Cox Post 72 advances to the final day of the American Legion State Baseball Tournament with a 9-5 win over Newburgh.
The win moves Post 72 to 20-11 for the season, but for the first time in team history, they have the chance on the final day to play for a state championship.
The road is rocky, as it will take two wins Tuesday to claim that title, and there isn’t a plethora of pitching left to make that charge.
But play they will, and the win over Newburgh Post 44 in the loser’s bracket Monday afternoon is the third in four straight days was a highlight reel for the hitters, especially the four guys at the top of the batting order.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well (during the tournament), Post 72 coach Kyle Proctor said. “We came up with some big hits and big pitching.”
The hitting was spread around, but the pitching accolade falls on the shoulders of Henry Taylor.
The Crawfordsville product threw six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, only half of them earned. He walked and struck out three.
“It was huge for him (Taylor) to throw 99 quality pitches and get us to the seventh inning,” Proctor said. “He was supposed to go on vacation to North Carolina today, but his family delayed the trip a day so he could pitch, and he really came through. He pitched a heck of a game.”
Running out of pitches, Taylor gave way to Austin Motz for the seventh, and while walking three and allowing one run, he threw strikes and got Newburgh to swing the bat, and two fly ball outs was capped by a strikeout to end the game.
The sidebar of the Motz story is that the Crawfordsville senior-to-be hurt his non-throwing hand in the Sunday night loss to Rockport, and was unavailable to play defense or bat, but was able to pitch that inning.
“It’s a bruise on the left hand,” Proctor said of the injury. “He couldn’t hit today - we will see how fast it heals for tomorrow.”
The offensive stars at the top of the order were familiar names to Post 72 fans.
Landen Southern, the first-team coaches All-Stater from Clinton Prairie, reached base five times in five trips.
It was four hits, including a home run that landed in a sun deck of a house across the street from the stadium, three runs scored and one RBI.
Behind Southern was George Valencia and the Fountain Central product hit his first home run of the Legion season that drove in two, had another hit that drove in one more, reached base when hit by a pitch and scored twice.
Behind Valencia was Jacob Braun, and the North Montgomery grad had two hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Cade Walker (Seeger) was 3-for-3 with a RBI.
“Landen had a day, George had a day and Jacob had a day,” Proctor said of the threesome. “Things always go well when those top guys do well.”
Post 72 put four runs across in the third inning to draw first blood and knock out Newburgh starting pitcher Hunter Lindsey.
They added two in the fourth and another pair in the sixth. Zach Fichter reached on an error and scored the final run in the seventh on a Valencia single.
Newburgh took advantage of an error in the bottom of the third to go with four hits and tied the game at 4.
They left runners on base in the fourth and fifth without scoring and then did put the one run up in the seventh. They left a total of eight runners. Post 72 stranded 10 around the 14 total hits they had.
The win puts Post 72 in survival mode heading into championship day.
Southern will have innings to pitch, as will Drew Bradley. They, like Motz, can throw in one game.
“We’ll make it work,” Proctor said of the possible creativity needed on the mound.
“The bottom line is that we are there.”
The first pitch of the first game is scheduled for 1 p.m. against Rockport, who eliminated Kokomo on Monday with a 10-7 win. Rockport defeated Crawfordsville 9-3 on Sunday to remain in the winners’ bracket.