CALVERT CITY – The “close, but no cigar” performance by William A. Doyle Post 236 baseball team in American Legion competition this year was ahead of coach Billy Hodge’s expectations.
The youthful team just didn’t get the bounces it needed in too many instances, Hodge said. Experience – and adding a few more key players to the roster – will help, Hodge believes.
Among others, Hodge is targeting Marshall County senior Austin Johnson, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, stalwart third baseman and capable batsman.
“Austin Johnson is probably our number one priority,” Hodge said. “He’s got a legitimate front-line arm and he’s a good hitter.”
It doesn’t hurt that his little brother, junior Blake Johnson, is another solid player with considerable experience at shortstop, a position where the Titans will need shoring up next year.
Cody Clark is another MCHS player Hodge wants to land for next season.
“He was their designated hitter,” Hodge said. “And he’s a good pitcher.”
A pair of young players from the Murray Tiger team, Zack Grogan and Luke Brown, could help shore up the Titan lineup as well. Grogan is a shortstop-pitcher and Brown plays center field and pitches. He is a left-hander.
Hodge, a Navy veteran who is a member of Post 236, started the baseball program in 1999. It was designated Tri-County and was to draw players from Marshall, Livingston and Calloway counties.
It was also intended to battle against established programs led by Paducah’s Chief Paduke Post 31, the flagship Legion team in western Kentucky.
Hodge stepped down as coach to administer the Post 236 program three years ago, but returned to the coaching post when Scott Matlock resigned in October. Matlock was the coach at Heath High School, which has now consolidated with Lone Oak and Reidland into McCracken County High.
The team lost a pair of one-run decisions to be eliminated from the district tourney.
Not the 6-23 record, but the number of games in which the Titans had a chance to win exceeded what he had believed his young team could do, Hodge said.
“It was really more than I anticipated,” Hodge said. “I thought we were a couple of years away from competing in the division.
“I thought it would be three years before we got into a situation where we could go toe-to-toe with Paducah and Mayfield. We were able to do it this year.”
Post 236 won two of six games against Mayfield Post 26, which advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament after winning the District 1 tournament last month at Eddyville.
The Titans were 0-2 against Paducah, but both games were 4-3 decisions that turned on key plays.
The Calvert team was 1-2 in three games against the other team in the four-team district, Lyon County Post 68.
“We left too many runners on base too many times,” Hodge said. “The two games against Paducah, we left 13 runners on base the last time and the other one we left 12. Against Lyon County, we left 13 and 13. You just can’t win games leaving that many runners on base.”