By Maurice Patton
NASHVILLE – After recently signing with Alabama-Huntsville, Luka Boylan wasn’t planning to play much baseball this summer.
That doesn’t mean the recent Spring Hill graduate wasn’t planning to play any baseball, though – and the Post 19 Seniors were the grateful recipients of his services Monday night at Trevecca Nazarene University’s Jackson Field.
In his first action since concluding his senior season with the Raiders six weeks ago, the left-hander allowed five hits over six innings, striking out seven and giving up three runs in a 13-5 win over the Throwbacks.
“I wasn’t going to play all throughout the summer,” said Boylan, who also played quarterback and linebacker for the Spring Hill football team. “I was going to take a break and enjoy it.
“I figured at some point somebody was going to call.”
With a number of former teammates on the Post 19 roster, and with some recent departures, it was almost inevitable that Boylan would be filling in with the squad.
“It would have been nice to have seen him a week ago,” said veteran coach Scott Beasley, whose official American Legion postseason roster has been set. “He was solid. He threw a lot of strikes. Really, both guys (Boylan and reliever Jacob Culberson) did.
“When we throw the ball over the plate, we’re pretty solid defensively.”
That wasn’t the case in the first inning, when a pair of Post 19 errors led to three unearned runs for the hosts. Boylan limited the damage, though, and he and Culberson combined to put up seven scoreless innings before the Throwbacks scored twice in their final at-bat.
“I had my struggles in the first, but I figured out (the plate umpire’s strike) zone,” Boylan said. “I figured out where to put the ball, and I started working in and out better. My fastball started working. I threw a couple of different offspeed pitches, but the fastball seemed to work well.
“I expected to throw strikes, but not to necessarily place the ball as well as I did. I figured I’d go four or five innings, but I think I did well getting through six. I spotted up better than I’d been expecting.”
Second-inning singles by Max Ballard and Nathaniel Huntzinger got the visitors on the scoreboard, and Caden Czajka’s RBI base hit followed by a Brandon O’Brien sacrifice bunt evened the score at 3 in the fifth.
After squandering a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the sixth, Post 19 scored 10 runs in its final three at-bats – a surge keyed by Brantly Whitwell’s two-run homer over the 20-foot wall in left field in the seventh — to secure its second straight victory.
“We haven’t really struggled to score, but we have struggled to get guys in,” Beasley said after his team stranded 11 baserunners Monday. “But overall, you’ve got to be happy when they are hitting.”
Coming off a 15-5 win in the final game of a three-game weekend series against Tupelo (Miss.) Post 49 in Florence, Ala., Post 19 banged out 14 hits to move to 9-4 heading into its Independence Day Classic that starts Thursday at Columbia State’s Dave Hall Field and at Spring Hill.
Ballard, Huntzinger, Czajka, O’Brien and Grant Burleson each had a pair of hits in the victory.
“Winning our last game against Tupelo, and winning our midweek game, we hope to build some momentum,” Beasley said. “We’ve developed into a pretty good hitting team. It just boils down to, ‘do you get enough pitching?’ We’re still looking for healthy, consistent arms. If we find five or six by (state) tournament time, we’ll be a tough out.”
Post 19 opens pool play Thursday against Mayfield (Ky.) Post 26 at 7:15 p.m. at Columbia State and continues with a pair of Friday contests beginning at 3:30 p.m. Also participating are Pulaski Post 60, as well as Pontotoc (Miss.) Post 16, Gonzalez (La.) Post 81, Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Post 34, Baldwyn (Miss.) Post 130 and Tupelo Post 49.
The tournament schedule follows:
Thursday – Tupelo vs. Gonzalez, 5 p.m. at Columbia State; Pulaski vs. Baldwyn, 5 p.m. at Spring Hill; Post 19 vs. Mayfield, 7:15 p.m. at Columbia State; Pontotoc vs. Tuscaloosa, 7:15 p.m. at Spring Hill
Friday – Tupelo vs. Pulaski, 11 a.m. at Columbia State; Mayfield vs. Tuscaloosa, 11 a.m. at Spring Hill; Tupelo vs. Baldwyn, 1:15 p.m. at Columbia State; Mayfield vs. Pontotoc, 1:15 p.m. at Columbia State; Post 19 vs. Tuscaloosa, 3:30 p.m. at Columbia State; Gonzalez vs. Pulaski 3:30 p.m. at Spring Hill; Post 19 vs. Pontotoc, 5:45 p.m. at Columbia State; Gonzalez vs. Baldwyn, 5:45 p.m. at Spring Hill
Saturday – Championship semifinals, 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. at Columbia State; Consolation games, 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. at Spring Hill; Finals, 3:30 p.m. at Columbia State
Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports