Players understand the postseason is different than the regular season. Losses could mean the end of the season.
Wins advance the team deeper into the postseason. Every play could mean the difference of going on or going home.
The Kansas American Legion AA teams are in the same boat this week with the beginning of Zone Tournaments. The Zone 2 Tournament in Ottawa opens today and runs through Friday with the if game set for Saturday.
Third-seeded Ottawa (23-10) opens at 8:15 p.m. today against No. 2 Wellsville (15-5). It is a rematch of last week’s Kansas Amateur Baseball Association league tourney semifinal won by Ottawa, 13-6.
The Zone tourneys are double-elimination with two games each night, beginning at 6 p.m. All games are played at Harvey M. Drake Field.
Ottawa coach Shawn Herrmann said his players know what is at stake and expects them to rise to the occasion — just like they have all season.
“What we are good at is playing well in pressure situations,” Herrmann said. “We don’t want our season to be over. We have talked a lot about what it will take to win.
“We are excited.”
Herrmann expects the opener to be one of the best in the tournament. Neither team wants to drop into the loser’s bracket.
“It will be a battle,” he said. “We know we will be seeing their ace. They have some good hitters. It is going to be a good game.”
Ottawa has been an up-and-down team this summer. Herrmann has called it growing pains.
The coach senses this group is ready to explode.
“They have played a lot of baseball,” Herrmann said. “We are ready to play good baseball.”
Ottawa comes into the tourney rested and healthy. Ottawa played its regular-season finale this past Wednesday and suffered an 11-9 loss to Emporia.
“Our pitching staff is rested,” Herrmann said.
Another big aspect is all 16 players are playing for each other, which was the catalyst to Ottawa’s KABA tourney title run.
“We did not play selfish baseball,” Herrmann said. “They were there to win.”
Ottawa’s recipe for success this season has been good pitching, defense and timely hitting. Herrmann hopes all three aspects come together for the postseason.
“We want to be the aggressors,” he said. “We want to put pressure on [our opponents].”
Herrmann said a big advantage is playing at home. He said if Ottawa continues to win it will play all of its games at 8:15 p.m.
“The atmosphere with the music and fans will help us out,” he said.