Altamont head coach John Niebrugge prefers man to machine.
The second-year coach throws to the Indians in hitting drills, instead of putting a pitching machine in his place because he said it better simulates actual arm motion and speed.
His manual mentality appears to be shaping the Indians' offense into a well-oiled machine, unloading a 57-3 run differential this postseason, during their run to today's Class 1A State semifinal game.
“The pitching they're seeing now is slower than what they're getting (from me) every day,” Niebrugge said. “And they're smoking me in practice.”
Niebrugge doesn't expect to routinely beat teams in the way the Indians won their last two games – a pair of wins by a combined score of 31-0, collecting a sectional and super-sectional title along the way.
But the Indians' hitters show better approaches at the plate, he said, swinging at pitches in the strike zone. Altamont compiled 30 hits in their last two games.
Second baseman Josie Phillips is at the head of an offense on a tear. Phillips has six hits, 10 RBIs and a home run in the last two games. Right fielder Nikki Tharp has four hits, three RBIs and a home run. Utility player Brooke Burns has five hits in her last five at-bats with six RBIs and a home run.
Phillips is one of five everyday starters boasting batting averages better than .400, including center fielder Madison Ohnesorge's .510 and pitcher Deidre Ledbetter's .485.
The hot batting order has almost exclusively stayed the same from day one, Niebrugge said, with Burns and Elizabeth Biggs often switching in and out of the lineup.
“It's pretty easy to write out the lineup,” Niebrugge said. “It's not something I'm going in there wondering what my best matchup is going to be with (the opponent's) pitcher.”
Sciota West Prairie's Kourtney Campbell will be the Indians' first test on the big stage. Campbell has pitched in all 35 of the Cyclones' games this season, compiling a 26-8 record in 225 1-3 innings.
Campbell has 200 strikeouts this season and a 1.62 ERA. Niebrugge said he expects her to throw in the high 50 miles per hour range, utilizing a rise ball as a strikeout pitch.
She'll face Altamont's ace, Deidre Ledbetter, who has a 24-3 record in 30 games this season. She's thrown in 169 2-3 innings, gathering 259 strikeouts and a 1.11 ERA. She hasn't given up a run in three games.
Unlike the Indians' batting order, only one of the Cyclones hitters is hitting better than .400. Jen Reedy has a .416 batting average with six doubles and 23 RBIs.
Five everyday starters hit better than .300, including Tabby Bilderback, who has a .374 average with a team-high four triples and three home runs. Hanna Runner is hitting .360 with 13 doubles.
“They have a lot of girls who swing hard,” Niebrugge said. “They're power hitters more or less. They just try to move people along but don't try to take extra bases.”
The Cyclones wont try to push the envelope by taking risks, Niebrugge said; instead, they'll look to string together base hits to score runs, putting extra pressure on the defense.
Ledbetter has eased some of the pressure from the pitching circle this posteason, striking out at least nine hitters in each game, including a postseason-high 13 strikeouts against Cumberland. She threw a no-hitter in the 15-0 win against Oblong for the sectional title.
Ledbetter and catcher Lauren White continue to gel as they call of the pitches themselves, allowing the coaches to sit back and watch even when they want to interrupt.
“Coach (John) Ledbetter and I sometimes want to know what's going on, but then again those two are so locked in that we trust them,” Niebrugge said. “They can see things that sometimes the coach can't see.”
White and Ledbetter are known to scout opponents during pregame warmups. Also, the pair tries to pick up notes about hitters in preparation for games.
The Indians will take the same mentality they've had all season into today's game — give the ball to Ledbetter on the mound and trust their strong lineup. Altamont and Sciota West Prairie will be the first game of the day at 10 a.m. at the Eastside Centre in Peoria.
“I'm very confident, but that's kind of the mentality we've had all season,” Niebrugge said. “We don't think we can get beat. We have an ace on the mound and a lineup that can hit. We have all the necessary tools to keep advancing.”
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Altamont head coach John Niebrugge prefers man to machine.
Newton Post 20 bests Belleville Post 58 in opener 6-1
After a 9-3 loss to Breese Post 252 Gray Monday night, Newton Post 20 coach John Grunloh predicted the five-day break until the Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament would be good for his players, especially his pitchers.Mitch Jansen proved his coach right, spinning a gem in Newton's opener Saturday afternoon as Post 20 made short work of Belleville Post 58 6-1.
Hearts to prep with Mattoon 7-on-7
Two weeks ago, Effingham was supposed to start shaking off the rust with a 7-on-7 football tournament in Mattoon. Naturally, it rained and was canceled.
So Saturday, the Flaming Hearts will head up to Mattoon and play their first 7-on-7 event of the season, taking part in an 10- team field with Mattoon, Rochester, Robinson, Marshall, Cahokia and Pleasant Plains from Illinois, with Terre Haute North and Northview coming from Indiana. Rochester is bringing two squads.
Newton Post 20 plays Belleville Saturday
With the District 23 tournament behind them, Newton Post 20 now knows its fate for the Fifth Division Junior Legion tournament this weekend in Bethalto.
Newton will play Belleville Post 58 at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Bethalto, in the third game of six on the day.
Effingham's season comes to a close with 11-1 loss to Salem
A 1-0 lead for Effingham Post 120 rapidly evaporated, and the post’s Junior Legion season came to an end with a 11-1 loss in five innings to Salem Post 128 Tuesday night.
The game was for the final spot of District 23 in the divisional tournament, with Newton Post 20 and Breese Post 252 Gray punching their tickets by winning their district divisions.
Newton Post 20 falls short against Breese Gray 9-3
While the District 23 title ultimately exceeded Newton Post 20’s grasp, their season will continue in Bethalto.
Newton took on Breese Post 252 Gray for the Junior Legion District 23 title as the two division winners, but Breese’s bats proved too much for Newton in an 9-3 loss for Post 20.
“The innings where they put some runs on us, we gave them some extra outs,” said Newton coach John Grunloh. “You’ve got to make the plays when you play better teams.”
Barnes' one-hitter boosts Post 120; Effingham beats Dieterich 1-0
Ryan Barnes hasn’t seen a lot of time with Effingham Post 120’s junior legion team this season, but he showed up in a big way Monday night in a 1-0 win over Dieterich Post 628.
The win kept Effingham’s season alive one more day in the Junior Legion District 23 tournament, as the post will face Salem Post 128 at 5:30 p.m. today for the district’s final spot in the divisional round. Salem Post 128 downed Mt. Vernon Post 141 1-0 in the West Division loser’s bracket, setting up the final with Effingham today.
Newton Post 20 tops Effingham Post 120 7-5 late
Most of the games at the Junior Legion District 23 tournament have seen pitching take control, but the pitchers in Sunday night's Effingham Post 120/Newton Post 20 game faced an uphill battle.
While Brock Mammoser started the game for Post 20 on the hill and struggled, he came through with the biggest hit in the game, putting Newton up for good in a 7-5 win over Effingham.
Dieterich Post 628 eliminates Teutopolis Post 924 3-2
Errors proved to be Teutpolis Post 924's undoing against Dieterich Post 628, as Dieterich's sixth-inning rally in an 3-2 win were boosted by three Teutopolis errors
To lead off the sixth, Trenton Poe reached on an error by Brock Bueker, and came around to score on an infield single by Ryan Radloff with a throwing error on Bueker. Poe was already on third when the ball went in the Teutopolis dugout, awarding Poe home to tie the game.
Bryce McClain followed with an RBI single to score Radloff and put Post 628 up for good. Dieterich scored again on a Briar Schmidt groundout where first baseman Brant Bueker tried to get an inning-ending out at second, but the throw was wild and brought home McClain.
Teutopolis, Deters down Altamont Post 512 2-0
TEUTOPOLIS — Lucas Deters didn't get a ton of run support from his Teutopolis Post 924 teammates, but he didn't need much in a complete-game shutout, and Teutopolis ended Altamont Post 512's season with a 2-0 win Sunday afternoon.
Deters' efforts at the Junior Legion District 23 tournament kept Teutopolis alive in the loser's bracket to face Dieterich Post 628 immediately following the win.
Two-out rally pushes Dieterich to win; Post 628 beats Vandalia Post 95 4-3
Down one with two outs and Vandalia Post 95 ace Zach Schaal coming in in relief, Dieterich Post 628 had a tough task to keep its season alive.
But down 3-2, Cole Hartke and Charlie Thoele laced back-to-back singles to score Briar Schmidt and Flach, respectively, to take a 4-3 lead.
Clayton Campton held the lead in the seventh, striking out two and getting Post 95 in order to keep Dieterich's season alive.
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