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Post 10's revival benefits prep baseball players

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

American Legion Post 10 fielded a baseball team last year for the first time in more than 30 years and the high schoolers fared quite well after shaking off the rust.

Now, Post 10 coach Blake Hancock wants to continue the progress in their second season back and should accomplish that with most of the players back. The season begins June 13 against Cicero at Marion High School's Art Caldwell Field.

Hancock is an associate head coach for Marion and he wanted to provide an opportunity for players ages 15 and older to play summertime baseball. Another purpose was for Giants' players to gain experience, but the legion team branched out to include players from Eastbrook, Madison-Grant and Mississinewa.

"For me, the biggest thing was getting our kids extra games, and I love what I do," Hancock said Wednesday afternoon. "It's another way for me to be around the game of baseball and give back to these kids ... the American Legion is a great league and it helps kids gain exposure and play great competition.

"Then, when the high school season comes around we will have faced about every situation we can expect to see," he added.

Playing in the American Legion league last summer benefited the Marion players, according to Hancock, and the Giants recently completed their most successful season in nearly 20 years. The Giants finished 16-12-2 and advanced to the championship game of an IHSAA sectional tournament for the first time since 1998.

Jaquan Reeves and Kyree Simmons were mainstays for the Giants with their hitting and pitching prowess and now take on leadership of Post 10's team. Broc Allgood, another pitching standout, along with Brayton Patton and Cain Richardson also represent the Giants.

Nick Evans, who helped Madison-Grant into a sectional semifinal, is another member of Post 10's deep pitching staff. Eastbrook's Blake Mitchell and Josh Pluimer, who is having shoulder issues, and Patton also figure in the pitching rotation.

"The strength of the team definitely will be pitching," Hancock said. "We have a very deep pitching roster and lot of kids who have thrown at the varsity level in high school.

"I think we'll be solid at the plate," he continued. "The biggest thing we have to improve on is being fundamentally sound and making easy plays. We have a lot of kids who play a lot of positions ... but a lot of these kids are baseball players and this is not their first time playing a different position. It's just getting used to it and getting the chemistry down and once we get a couple games in we'll be good to go."

Simmons was 6-1 with a 3.10 earned-run average over 38 1/3 innings for the Giants, while Evans struck out 56 batters over 51 innings and had a 3.57 ERA for the Argylls. Allgood pitched 40 innings for the Giants and posted a 3-4 record with a 4.90 ERA.

"Kyree Simmons had a great high school season and a fantastic season for me last year. I look to see him have another fantastic year," Hancock said. "Nick Evans had a great year at Madison-Grant in his sophomore year. Broc Allgood is a workhorse and he's that guy you depend when no one else can go. He's a No. 1 (starter), just Mr. Consistent and he gets out there and competes."

Reeves emerged as one of the county's most productive hitters in his senior season with the Giants and batted .390 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. Pluimer was a .390 hitter for the Panthers, while Kreigh Young was at .375 and Colin Yoder at .286 for Mississinewa.

Other team members includ Eastbrook's Jason Hale who batted .312 with 12 RBIs as a freshman and Ole Miss 2018 graduate Jalen Martin, who remains eligible to play American Legion baseball.

Post 10 will play a 16-game schedule including a July 4 tournament at Kokomo's Jackrabbit Stadium and an American Legion state tournament July 18-21 also in Kokomo. Hancock wants to expand the schedule to 24 or more games in the future.

Hancock said Post 10's success last year when it finished 13-6 shows Grant County has talented baseball players who just need a chance to play.

"The talent in Grant County baseball is extremely high," he said. "It's just that they've never had anywhere they can showcase it. Grant County is such a football-basketball county and these kids don't get the opportunity like they used to.

"(Post 10) gives kids in high school a place to play where you don't have to pay thousands of dollars to be on a travel organization, travel to Fort Wayne or Indianapolis when you can stay in town and still get good competition," he added. "To me the biggest thing is the camaraderie with the county schools and the relationships that have been made between them."