By David Green
DRAFFENVILLE – American Legion Post 236’s junior baseball team, the Marshall County High School junior summer league team, played well the last two weeks of their regular season.
Only thing is, thanks largely to extreme heat which led to cancelation of some games, the regular season ended nearly three weeks ago, on June 22.
That leaves coach Craig Johnson hoping the down time won’t result in a stagnant team when Post 236 hosts the state Junior American Legion tournament this week.
“The last two weeks [of the season], we played real strong,” Johnson said. “I saw a lot of improvement in some of our younger players.”
The Juniors won six of their last eight games to finish with an 11-9 overall mark.
This will be the third year of a five-year contract for the Calvert City-based post to conduct the tournament.
Owensboro, which won last year’s championship, heads an eight-team field.
The Post 9 Bombers defeated Morehead’s Post 126 Dragons 14-6 to win last year’s title.
Morehead, winners of the title in 2010, will play Post 236 in the tournament’s opening game Thursday at 10 a.m. at Mike Miller Park’s Field 4.
Other teams in the tournament include Lexington Post 8, Georgetown Post 24, Paducah Post 31, Metcalf Post 65 and Ashland Post 76.
Johnson is confident that his defense will do a solid job and the team has had solid pitching.
But, much like the Marshals’ squad in the spring, hitting was a weakness.
In the last eight or 10 games, Johnson said, the bats started to come to life.
“Those last two weeks, we were hitting up and down the order,” he said. “The bottom started producing for me.”
The team played a mixed schedule against other high school summer teams and American Legion squads from Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.
Johnson said he knows very little about the opposition his team will face in the tournament, with the exception of the Owensboro squad.
Post 236 suffered a 6-0 loss to Post 9 in the opening round of the Junior Summer Slam tournament, also hosted by Post 236 at Miller Park, June 8.
Then, Owensboro rang up 8-6 and 4-1 victories in a twin bill on the Bombers’ home field on June 15.
However, the junior Marshals ended the season by splitting a double-header with Owensboro at the MCHS field.
Post 236 won 10-9 in the first game and dropped the second game 9-6.
The 16 runs scored that day illustrate Johnson’s point about a revived offense. The revival began immediately after the two losses at Owensboro.
Post 236 scored 65 runs in their last eight games, getting 10 runs in four games.
The low ebb during that stretch was a 7-4 loss at Graves County June 18.
That game, the second half of a double-header. came after Post 236 scored a 10-0 win in the opener.
In the second game, there was diminished production up and down the batting order.
“That’s the key, I think, if the bottom of the order can produce,” Johnson said.
Austin Johnson, one of two sons of the coach on the Juniors roster, is the likely starter for Thursday’s opening game against Morehead.
The tournament is double-elimination, with games beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.