Clay County Post 2 makes its return to American Legion baseball

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

For the last five years, Nathan Stoelting and Andrew Kreiger have coached a travel baseball team together. And while the pair were successful in their ventures during those summers, many of which were spent with kids from Clay County, the options were beginning to dry up as their sons, Logan and Brayden, got older.

Because of that, Stoelting and Kreiger began looking into other options.

They had an interest in American Legion baseball, an amateur baseball league played by 13-to-19-year-olds across the country, but weren’t sure if any of their players would like to go that route.

That was until Clay City junior catcher Wyatt Johnson, a member of Stoelting’s and Kreiger’s travel team in the past, told them that was something he wanted to do before his high school career was finished. The coaches then polled the rest of the team and got resounding yesses from each, giving Stoelting the runaway put a plan in motion in hopes of putting a Clay County Post 2 team on the field for the first time since 2019.

“Baseball is a short season, so this gives the boys a chance to play in the summer. And really, it was Wyatt Johnson, who was very interested in playing legion baseball. He’s always played travel ball with us in the summer,” recalled Stoelting. “More importantly, I wanted to get the Clay County kids involved in something because there’s just not enough travel ball teams when you get to 17U. You’re either going to Westfield or there’s not many other options. This gives the high school kids a chance to play ball all summer long against good competition.”

Little did Stoelting know when he got the ball rolling towards bringing American Legion baseball back to Clay County that there would be numerous hurdles he’d need to clear to get the job done.

Fortunately, the newly appointed Post 2 manager accomplished the task. And while he admitted that the delays that were placed in front of him likely cost the team several games on the schedule, they will still have the chance to compete in the Regional Tournament at the end of July, which is all he could ask for.

“The first thing I did was go up and meet with our post commander Lonnie Boyce in Brazil. They were more than happy to support the team and were thrilled to have one back,” said Stoelting. “Once we had financial support, I then went through the registration process. Unfortunately, it was almost March before we were officially registered, and by then, most teams had already put together their schedules, but we were still able to get almost 20 games on the schedule and I’m thrilled with that. I know teams like Danville, they’re playing 40 games, and that’s all right. We’re getting there. We have a smaller roster and have already dealt with some injuries and stuff like that, so 20 games in the heat of the summer, I’m thrilled with that. We’re still going to get to compete in the regional tournament against Beech Grove, West Terre Haute and Terre Haute. Terre Haute gets an automatic bid to state, so whoever gets second-place in the regional will also get to go to state.”

Registered through the American Legion website and financially sponsored by Boyce and the rest of Clay County Post 2, Stoelting and Kreiger dove headfirst into putting a roster together.

There were two specific types of players they were in search of – experience and an ability to pitch.

With the 12-player roster – Brayden Kreiger, Brody Shaw, Caden Cooper, Dailon Keller, Gavin McMains, Logan Stoelting, Mason Camp, Noah Atkinson, Trey Dayhoff, Trey Eldridge (not pictured), Wyatt Johnson and Zain Keller – they formed, Stoelting said they accomplished just that, pointing out that nine of them either pitched this spring or have pitched in the past, giving the team a stable of arms to get through the 20-game campaign.

“We were talking through who might be a good fit from Northview and who might be a good fit from Clay City. We know the teams and the kids really well. We targeted some of the older kids that had less options first and then we tried to line up as many arms as we could, which is a huge thing,” Stoelting said. “We tried to target kids that could throw the ball a little bit and have some versatility, and boy that’s what our kids do. We have a great roster in terms of that.”

With a mixture of Clay City and Northview players coming together, some of whom have never played on the same side before, Stoelting admitted he was unsure how quickly the Post 2 team would gel. Through the first week of action, which included games against Danville, Beech Grove and West Terre Haute, Clay County has posted a .500 record, which has the Post 2 manager feeling much more optimistic about what the group can accomplish this summer.

“My expectations were pretty low when we started, but we’re 2-2 now,” said Stoelting. “We went over and competed against Danville who is a pretty good team … My expectations are now growing. We’re interested to see how we compete and then we’ll continue to go from there.”

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