Get the lead, and protect it.
Easier said than done, but that's what Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 is hoping to accomplish when it plays Pickerington Post 83 in an Ohio American Legion baseball state tournament opener at Beavers Field in Lancaster today at 4 p.m.
"We've been a pretty good team this year when other people are chasing us," said BevLow skipper Todd Engle, who has been at the helm for seven district crowns and seven state appearances, including an Ohio championship in 2006.
"When we get behind and have to chase other people...I mean, that's the youth that we've got," he continued. "We'll get down on ourselves and maybe doubt ourselves a little bit.
"We field it well enough that if we get out front of you and make you chase us then...that's been our goal the whole (district) tournament and we've been fortunate enough to do that."
Maybe, that good fortune can carry over at state.
Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750, winners of 18 of its last 20 ballgames and 3-0 in the district event at Don Schaly Stadium in Marietta, owns a 26-13 overall record. When the summer season started, BevLow was one of 45 American Legion senior baseball teams on the diamond in the Buckeye State.
Now, BevLow is one of eight at the state tournament, seeking an Ohio crown. The others are Prospect Post 368, Troy Post 43, Napoleon Post 300, Galion Post 243, J.B. Yeager Post 199 Harrison, Wayne County Post 68 (Gunslingers), and of course Pickerington.
Napoleon is both the defending Ohio champion and Great Lakes Regional winner at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind. From the Hoosier State, the River Bandits advanced to the American Legion Baseball World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Post 389/750 played in the Great Lakes Regional event eight years ago, and would like to do so again. It has never competed in the WS.
Thing is, if Beverly/Lowell plays baseball like it did in Region 8 of the district, it's got an excellent shot of extending its season. Since punching its ticket to state with an 11-2 rout of Cambridge Post 84 on July 19, it's had a little layoff.
A layoff is not good as far as momentum goes. The players obviously would rather be competing than practicing.
But it is good for the healing of aches, pains, and other ailments.
Plus, it's great for tired arms.
BevLow's pitching staff should be well-rested when tourney play begins.
Of course, the same probably can be said for the other participating teams as well.
With state being a double-elimination tournament, Post 389/750 will need to focus on a good start. It doesn't want to play and come out of the losers bracket.
So, whether Beverly/Lowell bats first or last in the tourney, let Pickerington and the other teams do the chasing.
For that matter, if BevLow never has to look back to see if anyone's gaining, that'll be just fine.
Just like district.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org