While some might think it, Pittsburg Post 64 head coach Mike Watt said that, despite returning as the defending champion, he doesn’t really feel a target is on his back.

While some might think it, Pittsburg Post 64 head coach Mike Watt said that, despite returning as the defending champion, he doesn’t really feel a target is on his back.
That could change as the Kansas AAA American Legion State baseball tournament opens today at JayCee Ballpark.
“When you get to the state tournament, everyone has a chance to win it,” Watt said.
And, the Newton Knights (19-11), Post 64’s first-round opponent tonight, may feel a tad differently.
“It certainly sounds like it [having a daunting task],” said Knights’ head coach Mark George. “I would say that 80 percent of our kids will play high school ball next year. We are not as experienced as some of the other teams and anytime you win a state tournament, you are a good club.”
It is a different situation for both teams as neither coach knows much about the other outside of the fact that George knows he is facing a Pittsburg (22-3) team that won last year’s tournament.
“It is going to be a tough tournament, no matter who we go up against,” George said.
And Watt is not that concerned about the lack of knowledge he has about the Knights.
“In a way, you always like to know a little bit about who you are playing,” Watt said. “But, on the flip side, there aren’t many teams that know a lot about us either.”
One thing is for sure, as the defending state champs, Post 64 has set high standards for themselves in relation to this tournament.
“There is no doubt that the expectations are high,” Watt said. “The guys have been talking about winning the state championship since the beginning of the season.”
Standing in their way first will be Newton, a team that does not have a lot of college experience, but does have a solid starting pitcher in Nathan Briar.
Briar threw during the spring for Newton High School — also coached by George — and compiled a 5-2 record with a 1.80 earned run average.
“He keeps a cool head and he just stays the course,” George said. “He may give up 10 hits but he finds a way out of predicaments.”
However, when it comes to mound work, none may be in a better situation that Post 64 as Watt enjoys having up to nine different players that can pitch, starting with Brandon Spear and Jesse Watt.
Mike Watt said that pitching depth will be at a premium during the state tournament.
“There is no doubt that pitching depth will be a factor,” Mike Watt said. “These are nine-inning games and you can eat up a pitching staff quickly in those types of games.”
Newton is a team that last appeared at the state tournament when they hosted the event in 2005 but last played their way into it in 1999. This year, the Knights knocked off Andover Central, 12-2 in the zone championships to earn their berth.
That leaves George — who coached the Wichita Sluggers to the 16 under NBC championship at JayCee Ballpark in 2006 — in a no-lose situation facing Pittsburg in the first round.
“I would say that we are in a nothing-to-lose situation because the guys are just enjoying the fact that they have another week of baseball,” George said. “They look forward to the challenge more than just playing.
“We know that we are going to have to play very good baseball and we are just excited to play baseball.”
Pittsburg and Newton play the final game of the first round. It will start as soon as the 5 p.m. game concludes at JayCee Ballpark.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.

Here is a look at the schedule for the Kansas AAA American Legion State baseball tournament, which starts today at JayCee Ballpark:
Wednesday, July 29
Tonganoxie (20-10) vs. Atchison (9-16), 11 a.m.
Lawrence (16-23) vs. Hays (21-18), immediately after game 1
Manhattan (28-12) vs. Winfield (17-11), 5 p.m.
Pittsburg (22-3) vs. Newton (19-11), immediately after game 3
Thursday, July 30
Tonganoxie-Atchison loser vs. Lawrence-Hays loser, 10 a.m.
Manhattan-Winfield loser vs. Pittsburg-Newton loser, immediately after game 5
Tonganoxie-Atchison winner vs. Lawrence-Hays winner, 5 p.m.
Manhattan-Winfield winner vs. Pittsburg-Newton winner, immediately after game 7