Legion baseball's season reaches familiar territory — state tournament

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Ottawa American Legion baseball team is in familiar territory. In the past 30 years, the legion squad has qualified for the state tournament nearly every year, winning seven state titles since 1994.

The Arrows advanced to the state tournament this past weekend by taking second to state host Pittsburg in the Zone Tournament. The AAA/AA State Tournament begins Wednesday in Pittsburg.

Ottawa Arrows catcher Brett Hadl snares a pitch out of the dirt. The Arrows have been a consistent state tournament qualifier the past 30 years, including this year.

“It is pretty cool to go to state,” Arrows assistant coach Nathan Roth said. “Last year, we got hot at the end of the season, but we did not have a tournament. It is down in Pittsburg with those nice fields.”

Arrows coach Kyle Altic said the expectation every year is to play in  the state tournament.

“This is what we work for is to get to state,” Altic said. “It is always fun to go to Pittsburg. The fields are nice.”

Ottawa (15-20) has played inconsistent baseball all season for a variety of reasons.

“All season guys have had to play positions they are not used to and hit in the line-up they not used to,” Roth said. “Overall it has been good for them. Pretty much everybody has gotten tougher mentally over the season. All year — if we have had a doubleheader — we have been good for one game. State starts off with one game each day. That could benefit us.”

Altic said the players have grown in all areas throughout the season.

“You have to battle,” Altic said. “It is good to have people you can move around. In a lot of our games this year, we have beat ourselves in our losses. Most of our losses are from having seven or eight errors in a game. You go to our wins, we minimize those to one or two. Hopefully we can become a little more consistent and have less errors and compete.”

The Arrows have played at a high level at times like the 20-2 win over Emporia to secure the state berth. Other times, things have gone awry. An example was the 12-3 loss in the Zone opener to Emporia.

“We went in there thinking we would walk over Emporia,” Altic said. “We got stomped the first game. Luckily they responded the second game against them and we came out of there [with a state berth].”

Roth said Ottawa can compete with all the teams if the Arrows come to play.

“We legitimately could beat anybody in the state and lose to everybody in the state,” he said. “We have to be more consistent.”

Roth said the Legion’s success through the years is something to be embraced.

“We have been playing at a high level for a long time now,” Roth said. You are representing your home town. When I played, that was cool.

“Hopefully some of the younger guys see we are making it to state consistently and want to be apart of it when they get to this age.”