CHARLESTON — The Danville Post 210 Senior Legion baseball team didn’t have much time to ponder its impending road trip.
The Speakers had just secured their first-ever American Legion World Series bid, via a 4-3 walk-off victory over Beverly/Lowell (Ohio) Post 389/750 at Eastern Illinois’ Coaches Stadium to win the Great Lakes Regional.
But amid the on-field celebration last Sunday, Post 210 coach Allan Shepherd knew a bus ride to Shelby, N.C., was less than 24 hours away.
“I know what I’m expecting: (Monday) morning, we get on that bus (and) I’m going to relax,” Shepherd said with a smile. “And when we get there to Shelby, it’s just going to be, ‘Enjoy the moment.’”
Of course, the Speakers (36-8-1) didn’t merely make the 10-hour trek east to stargaze.
They’ll have just as much a shot at a World Series title as the other seven teams involved from across the country, including when they open the World Series at 9 a.m. on Thursday against Destrehan (La.) Post 366.
“Everybody wants to be representing somebody for their town, for their city,” said Ernest Plummer, a Danville graduate and the regional MVP. “We represent ... the whole Great Lakes Region, so I feel like that’s a big thing for us.”
Three days without baseball, between the regional’s conclusion and the World Series opener, is something Shepherd gladly anticipated.
A grueling stretch of six regional games in five days required the use of 10 different pitchers for Post 210.
Ace Chase Vinson was unable to toss after the inaugural game because of his pitch count, and Elijah Harden, whom Shepherd admitted “we didn’t expect ... to throw a whole lot,” got the call in the winner-takes-all regional final.
“We have kids that love to compete,” Vinson said. “Elijah, that’s not an easy task given how young he is. ... Being able to come in there in a do-or-die regional championship and pitch as well as he did shows a lot about him.”
Post 210 is prepared to show off even more on the top Legion stage, at last a World Series contender after three consecutive seasons falling just short in the regional level.
“Fourth time’s the charm, I guess,” Shepherd said. “Just progressively gotten better. We thought we could do it once we got here because we were playing well and playing well together, and everybody was healthy.”
Harden has high expectations for the Speakers, who would need to win at least four times to wear the World Series crown. After Thursday’s opener, Post 210 is set to take on Albuquerque (N.M.) Post 13 at 3 p.m. on Friday and conclude pool play at noon on Sunday against Festus (Mo.) Post 253. The top two teams in each four-team pool will advance to next Monday’s two semifinal games, with the World Series championship game slated for 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday.
“It’s great to go there,” Harden said. “I feel like we can go and we can win a couple of games. We can go and compete in this tournament.”
One element of this setup that caught Post 210’s collective ear was the realization games would be shown on ESPN-based channels. The Speakers’ game on Thursday will be broadcast on ESPN3, an online-streaming service, while Friday’s game and Sunday’s game are televised on ESPNU.
That announcement, from a regional official this past Sunday, drew audible pleasure from the Post 210 camp.
“That’s kind of crazy,” Plummer said. “Maybe some people will be watching us. Well, I know people will be watching, but maybe some important (baseball) people might be watching us.”