TERRE HAUTE — Byron Cox Post 72 is headed to the American Legion state tournament finals for the first time since 2013.
Post 72 capped a perfect 3-0 weekend with a 10-5 come from behind win over Terre Haute’s Wayne Newton Post 346 in Sunday’s Regional No. 5 championship game. It was the third comeback win for Post 72 in the regional after they defeated Post 346 5-4 and Sullivan 7-3 on Saturday.
“Terre Haute has state titles under their belt, and we came in and beat them twice in their place,” Post 72 coach Kyle Proctor said. “It’s huge. “We’ve been in the finals in ‘18 and ‘19 in the exact same situation, and got beat twice. And this time we finally got over the hump and we can go represent Crawfordsville in Kokomo.”
Clinton Prairie’s Landon Southern and North Montgomery’s Jacob Braun each came through in the middle part of the order with RBI hits to put Post 72 ahead 2-0 in the top of the first, but Post 346 came charging back with three runs in the bottom of the inning, including two unearned after back-to-back Crawfordsville errors.
Crawfordsville’s Austin Motz scored his second run of the game on another RBI hit from Braun to tie it in the third, but Cade Moore helped Terre Haute retake the lead 4-3 in the last half of the fourth, scoring on a wild pitch after reaching on a one-out single.
Post 72 never panicked against the two-time defending Indiana state champs. They had been in the same situation twice on Saturday.
And one big inning once again turned the tides with a 6-run sixth to take a 9-4 lead and they never looked back.
Fountain Central’s George Valencia led the inning off with a walk and the bottom of the order came through in a big way. North Montgomery grad and current Wabash Little Giant Kai Warren drove Valencia in with a sacrifice fly, while Crawfordsville’s Zack Fichter had a base hit and later scored and Matthew Harris, the No. 9 hitter walked and later scored.
“Today was the first day basically that Kai Warren was eligible to play with us because he had that elbow surgery,” Proctor said. “That was big having him in the seven spot, and then of course Fichter has been down in the bottom the whole time, but he continues to hit the ball.”
For the day, the 7-8-9 hitters for Post 72 reached base eight times, scored three runs and drove in a pair.
Crawfordsville chased Terre Haute starter Cade Moore out of the game after four innings before unloading on relievers Logan Harrison and Kade Kline. Harrison took the loss, allowing five runs on two hits, while walking four in just 1 1/3 innings pitched.
“We were taking pitches off of a new pitcher,” Proctor said. “Warming up we saw him struggling and it was just basically waiting to see if he could throw strikes.”
Post 72 also made a living at swiping bags. Crawfordsville had eight stolen bases, including Austin Motz steal of home in the six-run sixth — and would have had plenty more if it wasn’t for passed balls and wild pitches.
“It was about being aggressive today,” Proctor added. “and with the catcher being slow, releasing the ball being slow getting it to second and also wasn’t very accurate.”
Danville’s Tony Ramirez took the ball for Post 72, tossing 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits, striking out none and walking six. His Warrior teammate Will Bradley picked up the win in relief with 3 1/3 innings pitched, allowing one run on four hits, he walked one and struckout two.
Post 72 will open play in the eight-team double-elimination tournament in Kokomo on Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. with an opponent still to be determined.