Pierce, Schrader contribute in Post 346's Best of Midwest runner-up finish

Monday, June 17, 2024
Post 346's Caden Schrader fires a pitch towards the plate during the John E. Hayes Best of the Midwest Invitational over the weekend.
Morgan Mershon photo

Each summer, when Post 346’s American Legion team comes together for the first time, and in doing so mixes and matches players from numerous high school baseball programs from around the Wabash Valley, it’s easy to want to make a good first impression.

And in Terre Haute’s five games to open the month of June, which consisted of making a trip to Missouri for the Baseball Battles Cancer tournament, Northview’s trio of Zac Buell, Jackson Pierce and Caden Schrader did just that.

However, the latter two – Buell has been sidelined for the past two weeks with a wrist injury – showed just how significant of a role they’re set to play for the rest of the summer in the opening game of the eighth annual John E. Hayes Best of the Midwest Invitational.

Taking on Elsberry Post 226 at Rose Hulman’s Art Nehf Field, Post 346 entered the bottom of the eighth tied at 4-4. With one out, Schrader came to the plate and took back-to-back pitches for called strikes, putting the Northview graduate in an 0-2 hole. The right-handed swinging middle infielder fouled off two straight pitches before doubling on a fly ball to center field.

“Caden had a great at bat in the eighth,” said Post 346 manager Cole Whitlock. “He got down 0-2 and then fought off two pitches before hitting the 0-2 double.”

He was forced to stay at second on a ground out by Linden Jenkins, bringing Pierce to the plate with two outs. The sophomore third baseman watched a pair of pitches go by – one for a called strike and the other for a ball – before lining the walk-off RBI single up the middle, scoring Schrader to give Terre Haute a tournament-opening 5-4 win.

“Jackson Pierce has done a great job of getting on base so far this season, and he had a great last at bat [against Post 226],” said Whitlock. “He stayed patient and got a pitch he could drive and then put a good swing on it.”

In the second of Thursday’s pair of Pool A games, this time at Terre Haute North High School against Owensboro Post 9, Schrader, the ace of Northview’s pitching staff the last couple of years, was given the ball on the mound to open the night.

And with the way he threw, Schrader nearly finished what he started as the hard-throwing right-hander came one out shy of a complete game but was removed in the seventh after hitting his pitch limit (103 pitches). Still, the Indiana State signee was able to lead Post 346 to a 7-3 win by firing 6.2 innings of scoreless baseball – all three runs charged against Schrader were unearned – while striking out 10 batters.

Post 346's Jackson Pierce prepares for a ground ball at third base during the John E. Hayes Best of the Midwest Invitational over the weekend.
Morgan Mershon photo

Pierce contributed in the win over Post 9 with a run scored, placing the host team in the driver’s seat to get out of Pool A, which they were successful in doing with a 7-2 win over West Terre Haute Post 501.

By going 3-0 against Post 226, Post 9 and Post 501 during pool play, Terre Haute earned the No. 2 seed in the championship bracket behind only Princeton Post 25. That set up a quarterfinal matchup against Madison Post 9 on Saturday night back at Terre Haute North. There, Wayne Newton, which saw Pierce contribute with a single and another run scored, won by a score of 4-1 to advance onto Sunday’s semifinal against Lancaster Post 11.

Pierce continued to show his clutch gene Sunday afternoon, as the sophomore third baseman knocked in an important insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning to widen Post 346’s advantage from one to two. It would eventually get up to three, leading to a 4-1 win to advance Wayne Newton onto the championship game against Harrisburg Post 167.

In the title tilt, Post 346 and Post 167 went back-and-forth against each other, which included Caden Schrader coming through with an RBI triple in the second to draw the hosts within one and then scoring the game-tying run two pitches later. However, the seesaw affair ultimately went the way of Harrisburg, downing Terre Haute by a score of 8-7 to win the eighth annual Best of the Midwest championship.

Despite falling just short of keeping the trophy at home, Terre Haute showed what it’s capable of moving forward, which should include impacts from Pierce, Schrader and Buell, all of whom have acclimated to the group very quickly, said Whitlock.

“All three Northview guys have been great additions to the team this summer,” said the first-year manager. “All three of them have been great teammates thus far.”

John E. Hayes Best of the Midwest Invitational box scores

Against Elsberry Post 226 (6/13)

Schrader (2B): 1-for-4; double, one run scored

Pierce (3B): 1-for-3; one run scored, two runs driven in, stolen base, hit by pitch

Against Owensboro Post 9 (6/13)

Pierce (3B): 0-for-3; one run scored

Schrader (P): 6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 K

Against West Terre Haute 501 (6/14)

Pierce (3B): 0-for-1; one run scored, two hit by pitches

Against Princeton Post 25 (6/15)

Schrader (2B): 0-for-3

Pierce (3B): 1-for-3; one run scored

Against Lancaster Post 11 (6/16)

Schrader (SS): 0-for-2; sacrifice bunt

Pierce (3B): 1-for-3; one run scored, one run driven in

Against Harrisburg Post 167 (6/16)

Schrader (SS): 1-for-2; triple, one run scored, two runs driven in

Pierce (3B) 0-for-3

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