Columbia Post 202 doesn’t want to overanalyze. That would take the fun out of its 10-game winning streak.
“It’s been a great wave so far,” coach Jim Dapkus said. “We just want to keep the wave going as far as we can and not try to figure out what’s happening.”
Post 202 begins play today in the state tournament with a 5:30 p.m. game against McDonald County-Pineville Post 392 at Liberty Park in Sedalia.
The double-elimination tournament also includes Anheuser Busch Post 299 and Blue Springs Auxiliary Post 499. The tournament continues through Saturday with a title game in the afternoon.
The Missouri champion will advance to regional competition Aug. 12-16 in Crowley, La. The most recent time Post 202 played in the state tournament was 1981.
Despite Post 202’s run through District and Zone play, Dapkus said the winning streak might mean little at the state level.
“It gives us a little bit (of momentum),” he said. “But at the same time, we’re going to face three other teams playing just as good as we are.”
Still, centerfielder Tyler Jones said Post 202 has become more dynamic.
“We’ve meshed together more like a team, and Coach has coached us better,” Jones said.
Said Dapkus, “I don’t think it’s just one specific thing. It’s a good group of kids, and they’ve been real focused from the first day. We’re playing really good as a unit right now.”
Third baseman Jake Kemper said that Post 202 counts on its pitching.
“We’ve had good pitching all throughout the season,” Kemper said. “I think that’s where we’re strongest at right now.”
Dapkus said Marcus Himmelberg, Chris Nichols or Lance Rodeman will be the starting pitcher today.
“If I had to put any money on it, probably Chris right now,” Dapkus said, “but that’s not 100 percent.”
A big game will mean big pressure for whoever starts.
“I guess the pitchers feed off of it,” Kemper said. “When the guys are playing good behind them, they tend to throw more strikes and things happen.”
While the team is hoping for more success, Jones said no one expected Post 202 would be playing for a state title.
“Me and Coach were talking about it, and he didn’t think we would either,” Jones said. “But we’ve been playing pretty good ball, and we’re here now.”
Kemper said team unity has helped Post 202.
“I’m impressed with our guys,” Kemper said. “We’ve held together pretty well, and we like to keep ourselves loose and have fun out here.”
Hitting has also been key to Post 202’s success.
“As a team, I think we’re getting the big hits in key situations,” Kemper said.
Dapkus said one weakness the team might have is a lack of experience against teams that like to run.
“I think the one thing we have not faced in awhile is a team that runs a lot,” Dapkus said. “That’s something we’re going to work on a little bit, but if one of these teams comes at us with some steals and hit-and-run, we haven’t had to defend that in awhile.
“You get kind of lazy if you don’t see that on a regular basis. Hopefully, we’ll get ready for that and be prepared if we do see it over the weekend.”
Kemper said staying focused can be tough at times.
“A lot of our guys, including myself sometimes, are not too motivated to come out here everyday and give 100 percent effort,” Kemper said.
Dapkus said he wants the players to concentrate on more than baseball, though.
“The focus is to win,” he said. “But at the same time, hopefully they enjoy what’s going on and they get a lot of good memories from it.”