MORGANTOWN — It’s been less than two weeks since American Legion baseball opened play for the summer, and already Morgantown Post 2 coach Tyler Barnette couldn’t be happier.
Post 2 swept two games June 9 during Day 2 of the WAJR Wood Bat Classic, at Mylan Park, nabbing a 6-3 victory over Elkins before turning around and capping the evening with a 3-1 win over Steubenville, Ohio.
The wins move Post 2 to 5-1 on the season, and the club is on a three-game winning streak.
“This is one of the better starts we’ve had within this program. Last year, we didn’t get the Morgantown players until the day before our first game because they made their state tournament run,” Barnette said. “We had everyone a little earlier this year; we got them together and practicing together. They’ve played with each other for a long time, and that helps when you know each other.”
Post 2 wasted no time is putting bat to ball on the afternoon, racking up two runs in the first inning against Elkins before stretching the lead to a 6-1 advantage in the third. Elkins was able to add two more runs to the scoreboard, but failed to play its way back into the game before time was called in the sixth at the tournament-mandated two-hour limit.
Justin Nelson and Quintin Smith led Post 2 with two hits each against Elkins, while Corder Helmick earned the win pitching.
“Elkins is a good team; they’re always going to battle tough. We played to a time limit again, which is unfortunate, but it happens,” Barnette said. “We played a good game up until the last couple of innings, and then they battled and brought themselves back into the game. We had a couple of miscues again; I have a feeling the more these guys play together, the less that is going to happen.”
Post 2 had little time celebrate the win, and returned to the diamond 30 minutes later to duel Steubenville. The squad struggled to re-establish a rhythm, falling into a 1-0 hole, but caught fire at the plate mid-game, tallying three runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 3-1 lead it would hold for the remainder of the game.
“We played a clean, great baseball game. To have them come out and play that kind of game with wooden bats and the sun beating down on them at six o’ clock in the evening, it’s awesome,” Barnette said.
Caleb Taylor was the winning pitcher for Post 2 during the nightcap performance.
“I was just going in there trying to throw strikes, put the ball into play, and let the infield take care of things behind me,” Taylor said. “I have great confidence in my infield. I know they’ll field the ball when it’s hit to them, and when I go out there they know I’m going to throw some strikes, get them plays and get them in the dugout quick.”
The focus of the day’s action for Barnette was seeing his team improving on hitting with runners on base, and he credited the performance in that aspect for the pair of wins.
“We’ve been focusing on hitting with runners on. It’s one thing to get hits now and then, but it’s another to string them together and get runners into scoring position; just getting runners on base and getting them across in general,” Barnette said. “If we can manufacture more runs, we’re doing our job. If a guy gets on first base and we can bunt him over or move him over with a ground ball or a line drive and so forth, that’s manufacturing runs. You can see, especially in a 3-1 game, that’s tremendously important.”
Barnette believes that if Post 2 can continue creating runs in crucial scoring opportunities, this season could shape up to be one of the best in program history.
“If we can do that consistently, we’ll be hard to beat, and that goes for any team. If you can consistently get runners in scoring position and hit with runners in scoring position, you’re going to be hard to beat,” he said. “We had a team a couple years ago that was one of the better teams we have had, but we just couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position. We talked to them about taking advantage of their opportunities, and they started hitting .500 on the second half of the season, and we made a deep run in the tournament.”
Post 2 will return to action today for the final afternoon of the Wood Bat Classic, hosting Cumberland, Md., at 1 p.m. at Mylan Field.