Big Island pays back Danville

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Post 217 improves to 8-1

By Mike Forster

You never know who is going to come through for Big Island Post 217.

The Legion team continues to draw from its depth of talent.  A pair of impressive wins over Danville and Salem pushed the team to an overall record of 8-1 (6-1, district).

As in seemingly every win this year, the pair of victories could be attributed to a number of sources.

Post 217’s win last Friday night was a 9-3 trouncing of Danville, the only team that had topped the Islanders this season.

That win was keyed by a neatly-wrapped seven-inning pitching performance by Trevor Johnston.

The rising senior at JF  “threw a heck of a game,” in the words of manager Kelly Russell.

The lanky lefty looked like he might not make it past the first inning, when he was touched for a pair of runs.

He dug deep, however and was able to cruise through the next six innings.  In fact, in his last inning, he needed only four pitches to retire the Danville side.

Bobby Shelton and Hunter Gordon combined to close out the last two innings.

The big hit in this one came off the end of Ragan Rudisill’s bat.  With Josh Huffman reaching first on a walk, Rudisill drove his old JF teammate home with a two-run homer, nailing it over the left field fence at the Forest field.

Post 217 then topped Salem, 11-6.  In that one, the offense hit full stride, belting out 16 hits for the evening.

Gordon had a pair of hits and a trio of RBIs and Josh Storm helped drive things with a beaut of a bunt and a well-executed hit and run.

Tyler Brown, lately of VMI, flexed some muscle in powering a home run that flew over the wall near dead-center field.

Rudisill added a big double, as did Cody Arthur.

Arthur is an interesting read.  A member of the Forest JV last spring, he looks comfortable playing with the older guys at the Legion level.  “That youngster is really playing well,” noted Russell.

Vince Claudio, meanwhile, turned in a solid performance from the mound.  The Shenendoah-bound Claudio pitched 6 1/3 innings to get the win.  He only gave up two earned runs over that stretch.

Josh Storm got the save for his former JF teammate, going 2 2/3 innings.

The striking thing about this team is its versatility.  For example, Jake Tanner, a natural middle infielder, is sometimes spotted at first base.

Brett Dietrich, who last pitched in Dixie ball, might find himself on the mound.

Matt Wallman, one of the finest catchers in the area, is sometimes on first and can even go into the outfield.

“It’s very seldom that we have anyone play the same position the whole game,” stated Russell.

The manager’s strategy seems obvious, with four expected results.

First, keep everybody involved in the game.  If you observe the team’s dugout demeanor, you’ll see that every head is in the game.

Second, give the players new opportunities.  The young men are getting experience at positions they normally would not see.

Third, win games.  The 8-1 record speaks for itself.

Fourth, be ready for the playoffs.  Of course, that one cannot be answered at this point.

It seems, however, that a stable of talent is being developed that is ideal for the playoff run.  By the way, the district tourney starts on July 17 at Kiwanis Field in Salem.

The prediction is that this team has to be the favorite going into that tourney.  That prediction is based, not only on its stellar record, but on that depth.

Between the number of games, the expected heat and the unexpected loss of player availability (due to injury, for example), depth is essential.

Russell can lean on a proven staff of at least a half-dozen arms for pitching duty.  Additionally, every position has at least two standout performers ready to jump into the fray.