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LEGION BASEBALL: Speakers set high expectations for themselves

Jun. 1—DANVILLE — In an athletics, everyone likes to say that success breeds success.

It also raises expectations and that's just fine to the Post 210 Speakers.

"Here, we expect to win every game, whether its tournament, mid-week game, especially division and state. Being a winning program, we expect to win," said Post 210 shortstop Zach Russell. "The more you win over the years, the more you want to win, the better your team gets.

"It also gives you more confidence. Everyone knows you are a winning team, and knows you are the best out there."

And the numbers speak for themselves.

The Speakers have won seven straight Division titles, finished in the top-three of the state tournament in all seven of those years, winning three state titles (2016, 2018, 2019) and have advanced to the Great Lakes Regional five times (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2023).

"Our expectations are first to win the Division and then it's win state and advance to the regionals," said Post 210 catcher Drew Wichtowski. "Those are the expectations that were established before I even got here and we just look to continue that success.

"It was a lot of run last year to finish second in state and advance to the regionals. This year, we have to win state to make the regionals. So, that's our goal for this season."

Wichtowski is absolutely correct.

With Wheaton, the defending state champs, hosting the Great Lakes Regional the state of Illinois only gets one team in this year's regional.

That was also the setup in 2019 when Post 210 won the state title and then proceeded to win the Great Lakes Regional on its way to a Final Four finish in the Legion World Series.

"Winning is what we do around here," said Post 210 infielder Braxton Waller. "It's an expectation to be good, to be excellent, and show who we are as a team."

Second-year manager Brent Hart really believes this team has all the ingredients to be a very good team.

"We have about a 50-50 mix between returners and new guys," said Hart with eight players off of last year's 35-9 squad. "We picked up a few new guys that were not in our program last year and we promoted several players from our junior team. I like the mix that we have.

"Our strengths should be our overall team speed, our ability to hit and overall pitching depth."

Post 210 definitely increased its team speed with outfielder Jerrius Atkinson, a state qualifier the last two years in the 110-meter hurdles, and the roster features at least 10 pitchers that threw for the respective high school team this spring.

Leading the rotation will be right-handers Kollin Asbury (Armstrong-Potomac), Cade Keleminic (Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin), Jameson Remole (Salt Fork) and Cade Schaumburg (Westville) along with left-hander Ryker Small (Hoopeston Area).

"The postseason tournaments are all double-elimination, so having that kind of pitching depth is important," said Hart. "That's also where speed is important. When you get against really, really good pitching having that ability to run can open up opportunities to score."

Post 210 showed in its season opener Friday night at Watseka that it's offense is balanced from top to bottom.

The Speakers (1-0) scored 16 runs on 15 hits with Waller leading the way as he went 3-for-4 with four runs scored. The bottom two hitters in the Post 210 lineup, Remole and Jordan Johnson were a combined 4-of-7 with five runs scored and five RBIs. Johnson had the team's only home run in the contest.

"We have a lot of guys that can hit the ball," said Wichtowski, who went 2-for-4 at the plate. "We might not have a lot of home run power, but everyone in our lineup can hit."

Post 210 is scheduled to play in the Taylorville Round Robin Tournament on Sunday against the Canton Crushers at 1 p.m. and the Mattoon Hitmen at 3 p.m. Those games will be played at Pleasant Plains High School.

The first home game for the Speakers isn't until June 18th when Post 210 will host Watseka Post 23 at Gruber Park in Tilton.

The annual TB24 Tournament is set for July 5-6-7.

At Watseka Post 210 Speakers 16, Watseka 1

Post 210 724 12 — 16 15 1

Watseka 010 00 — 1 1 2

WP — Pedro Rangel IV. LP — Jacob Onnen. Two or more hits — Post 210: Braxton Waller 3, Drew Wichtowski 2, Jaydon Riggs 2, Jameson Remole 2, Jordan Johnson 2. 2B — Post 210: Waller 2, Wichtowski, Riggs, Jerrius Atkinson, Grant Morgan. Watseka: Brayden Ketchum. HR — Post 210: Johnson. RBIs — Post 210: Riggs 4, Johnson 3, Waller 2, Remole 2, Morgan 1.

Records — Post 210 Speakers 1-0 overall. Watseka 0-1 overall.