POMONA — The West Franklin Junior American Legion baseball squad was not sure what to expect in its first season playing at the Legion level.
The Falcons knew they would have to play at a higher level to compete. West Franklin did more than that.
West Franklin compiled a 12-2 mark and is the top seed in Chanute Zone Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Katy Park.
West Franklin, coming off a Kansas Amateur Baseball Association Junior Tournament title, plays 6 p.m. against Burlington.
“I feel the first season has been very successful,” Falcon coach Danny Homer said. “The team has exceeded my expectations.
“They have always been a good group and this year they always seem to stay in games.”
The West Franklin squad has been embroiled in some tense and exciting finishes this summer and rose to the occasion more times than not.
Homer, who is also the West Franklin High School baseball coach, said the better competition is the reason why he wanted to play at the Legion level.
“The biggest difference is that the teams so far are more talented top to bottom,” he said.
“In the past the teams have all had great players, but as a whole they weren’t as solid all the way through the lineup.”
The younger group paired with a few older players to play games against the Senior Legion teams in the KABA.
That helped season the younger players, who have played together since their elementary years.
“I feel my team is just beginning to hit their stride,” Homer said. “We are starting to get the big hit when we need it. Our defense is getting more solid and our pitchers are finally realizing the importance of pitching strikes.
“We still have room for improvement but we seem to stay relaxed and have the confidence to stay in games.”
West Franklin has taken care of the Burlington Junior Legion squad this summer.
“We know how much talent they have,” Homer said. “We’ve faced them six times this summer and we’ve won all six, but they have a lot of fight and never give up. They are a talented well-coached team.
“The games just keep getting closer with them. “It should stand to be a good first-round matchup. We will not take them lightly.”
West Franklin withstood a late rally last week in the KABA tourney to hold on for a 10-9 win over Burlington.
West Franklin will face either the winner or loser of the other first round matchup of Chanute and Paola in Thursday’s game.
“We have not had the opportunity to see Paola or Chanute yet this summer,” Homer said. “We are looking forward to it.
“We will go into the games with the impression that they will be very good, but to see them [in the winner’s bracket] we will have to win against Burlington again.”
The winner of the tournament advances to the State A Legion Tournament in Burlington, July 24 through July 28. Homer said West Franklin needs to stay the course to have a shot at heading to state.
“To win the Zone, we will have to stay focused, stay relaxed and have confidence.” Homer said. “Of course, we will have to play great defense and pitch great. We will have to win some close games and have some breaks and timely hits.
“But all in all, I feel pretty confident that we will have a chance. It’s a great group of kids that have played a lot of ball together. They are fun to coach.”
6 p.m. — (1) West Franklin vs. (4) Burlington.
8 p.m. — (2) Chanute vs. (3) Paola.
6 p.m. — First round winners.
8 p.m. — First round losers.
6 p.m. — Loser of game 3 vs. winner of game 4.
8 p.m. — Championship
1 p.m. — If necessary game.