By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
For one team last year, summer baseball lasted a little longer than usual.
Milton's American Legion squad, Post 71, captured its first Region 5 championship in team history and proceeded to the state tournament. There, the team won two games before being eliminated.
"Basically, [it was] a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Milton coach David Byers, who also noted no other team from the West Branch League had made it to the state tournament before.
"The kids had a wonderful time. They played hard (and) played their hearts out."
That success did not translate entirely into a strong high school season for Milton though, as the Black Panthers finished their season 8-12, falling short of the 10-win threshold needed to make district playoffs.
The good news for Byers is that, despite the sub-par high school season, Post 71 is returning a large portion of its roster from last summer. With the fairly quick turnaround from one season to the next, those who played for the Black Panthers and are also returning to Byers' roster will have a chance to redeem themselves by attempting to defend Post 71's Region 5 title.
"They had a good experience last year, and I'm hoping that they reach back for that experience that they had, and realize what's at stake and what they can do again if they put their mind to it," said Byers, who is entering his 12th season coaching.
The feat will not come easy, though.
Milton has to take on the task without pitcher and centerfielder Reynaldo Adames, who was a key part of the team's lineup wherever he was, whether it be the lead-off man at the plate, in the field or on the mound. Also out of the picture this year is Jordon Bordner, who decided not to play after this summer after batting clean-up for the team last year.