Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, July 3 newspaper on Page B1.
McARTHUR — Despite being a team that plays mostly older competition, the American Legion Post 303 squad doesn’t back down.
When it’s an even playing field, the Mustangs have had very few problems handling their business.
Last Friday’s result was the latter as the Mustangs scored a 3-0 victory over Post 142’s 17U team in a thunder- and lightning-shortened game.
“We’re a young team, but when we put it all together, we’re a pretty good team,” said Post 303 manager Larry Travis. “Our outfield is pretty strong and we know we can rely on them to make plays. But Zach Bartoe did a great job on the mound and set the tone for us.”
Bartoe, a member of the Vinton County Vikings during the school year, was nearly untouchable as he sliced and diced his way through 142’s lineup.
Despite the inclement weather, Bartoe remained dialed in. There was a stretch between the second and third innings where he logged four consecutive strikeouts.
“I’ve had Zach since he was in seventh grade and there’s no off switch with him. He’s always dialed in,” Travis said. “He’s consistent as they come. There’s no control issues. He’s accurate and does a great job of mixing his pitches up. He’s the guy we knew when can count on to throw strikes when he’s on the mound.”
While Bartoe was dealing on the mound, his teammates get what they could to give him support.
But 142 gave them support as well. 142 gave up six walks, four in the bottom of the first while lead to a run scored.
Two runs later scored in the second inning by way of passed balls that allows runners to cross the dish with ease.
“We’ve been on a nice little roll this season from beating Jackson to winning the Legion tournament,” Travis said. “Despite the losses we’ve taken to some senior teams, it’s all been a learning experience and the kids haven’t gotten down on themselves. They understand who the opponents are, but they battle until the end.”
With only a handful of games remaining until the state tournament, Travis likes where his team is at.
“We had a span where we gave up just six runs in four games,” Travis said. “And that goes back to our fielding. We’ve made huge improvements from the start of the season to now and the kids deserve all the credit.”
But he also knows there’s still work to be done.
“We need to be more consistent in hitting off older pitchers,” Travis said. “We have the ability to hit off of them, but we need to do it better as a lineup. I think once that happens, we’ll really see how good this team is and can be.”