VIRGINIA — The Virginia American Legion baseball team wants to continue to build upon the momentum they’ve created since the beginning of the season and they’ll get a chance to do that starting today at the District 8 Substate Tournament.
Finishing the season with a record of 18-1, Post 239 skipper Tom Norman believed his squad to be worthy of the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Virginia drew the two-seed, however, and will open play with No. 7 Taconite, the host of the tournament.
While earning a high seed is nice, Norman says the snub should only act as more fuel for his team and the exceptional season they’ve been having.
“It’s nice to be that high of a seed but, personally, I think we should have gotten the one-seed,” Norman said. “Aitkin (the top seed) hasn’t played a lot of games but there’s not much we can do about that now. I know our guys will use that as motivation throughout the playoffs.”
As they look to their contest with Taconite, Norman says it could potentially be a tight battle. The two teams have met twice this season, with Virginia winning both times but in different ways.
“Taconite will be tough. It’s our third time seeing them and it’s never easy to beat a team three times in one season. It was a good game the first time and then we handled them pretty well the second time. The third time will be the toughest for sure.”
Norman also says Taconite having home field advantage throughout the entire tournament also makes things more difficult.
“They’ll be playing in front of their home crowd. They’re hosting the tournament and I know they’re going to be excited coming in so we’ll need to match that.”
When it comes to their plans for who’s getting the start on the mound, Norman didn’t want to give too much away but mentioned he was confident in his entire pitching staff.
“Right now we have everyone at our disposal. I can’t say too much but I want to put someone in that I know can handle it. Whoever gets the ball, I trust them to do a good job out there.”
Losing just one game so far this season, Norman says the key for his team in their wins has been to score early and score often, riding an early lead as far as they can.
“It’s nice to get up early and put ourselves out in front. We want to keep building on the momentum we’ve been having. It helps keep the energy high and we play very well when we feel good like that. If we start down and start playing badly, it’s hard to get past that negative energy.”
Their one loss came to Roseau in the Sir G’s championship game earlier this month. Norman has preached all season long that his team should hope to peak around the playoffs. While they’re playing their best ball at the moment, he thinks they can go even higher.
“Going 18-1 and responding well like we did after the loss to Roseau, I feel like we’re playing the best baseball we have all season long. But I feel like we can go even higher. We haven’t reached our peak yet and I think we can play even better than we have been.”
While Post 239 has managed to pick up some very decisive wins with large margins, they’ve also had their fair share of close battles. Those one- and two-run games have helped make the team even stronger according to Norman.
“Having those close games has given us some experience that the blowout-type games just can’t give us. Most of the time we’ve come out on top of those close games and we know it’s going to get even tighter in the playoffs. Anyone can beat anyone in this field but we’re ready to play ball and excited to make a run.”
Virginia’s game with Taconite is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Marble. Win or lose, Post 239 will be back in action on Friday in either Marble or Nashwauk.