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Legion seniors gear up for District

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for coach Michael Avalon and the West Alabama American Legion Post 29 seniors baseball team. The team has just three wins in more than 15 tries. But this weekend, the team will have a chance to erase a lot of that frustration with just two victories.

Thanks to a fortuitous draw and a thin field, Post 29 needs only two wins to claim the Legion District Tournament, which begins Thursday at Tuscaloosa Academy. Post 29’s first game is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 5:30, when they will face off with the winner of an opening round game between Post 34 and South Tuscaloosa.

West Alabama, South Tuscaloosa, and Post 34 are the only three teams involved in the double-elimination tournament, making West Alabama’s draw of the bye a substantial advantage.

“We’re probably the underdog,” says Avalon, “but we drew the bye, which will help us. If we win one game, we’re in the championship.”

While those wins have been hard to come by so far–and Post 29 went a combined 0-3 against the other two teams in the tournament during the regular season–Avalon says that doesn’t mean the wins can’t come now.

Post 34 is the team to beat, but we can do it,” he says. “That’s the thing about baseball. You never know when you’re going to have a good day and they have a bad day. ”

The key for Post 29, Avalon says, is playing well not as individuals but as team unit–a goal that may be reached easier for Post 29 than some teams thanks to a smaller-by-necessity roster that could have as many as 10 players fewer than their opponents.

“The biggest thing is communicating, just playing well as a team and making all the routine plays,” Avalon says. “We’re a smaller team, so everyone should be on the same page and we can play well as a team.”

Avalon said that although Josh Dunn will likely start the game Friday, he plans on using a number of pitchers throughout the tournament.

“Hopefully,” he says, “we’ll keep them off-balance.”

The winner of the District Tournament advances to the Legion seniors State Tournament, scheduled for the weekend of July 29.