PARKERSBURG - Could this be the year for Post 15 to snap a 40-year drought and win the state American Legion baseball championship?
"We were thinking 2014 might be us," said veteran Post 15 manager Jim Goodwin. "But we look good enough to do it this year."
Post 15 begins that quest at 1 p.m. Saturday, hosting Meigs (Ohio) Post 128 in a doubleheader at Bennett Stump Field in Parkersburg City Park.
Goodwin's optimism about this season starts with what Post 15 accomplished last season - a 35-10 record, setting a 90-year Post record in wins, surpassing a 33-win season in the late 90s by a team fueled by Nick Swisher, Eric Grimm and Nic Carter.
He noted, though, that "what we did last year was basically with a mix of pitchers who just filled in. Cody Starcher was probably our ace, but we have back Jonathon Murphy (Ripley), Adam McCray (Parkersburgh South) and Anthony Kist (Parkersburg High) who all did a good job for us last year."
This year, however, ''we're stronger pitching-wise than we have been since I've been here," said Goodwin. "We picked up left-hander Jesse Brown from Ravenswood. He's 6-foot-3, 180-pounds and throws really hard. Murphy pitched for Glenville State this year. We also have Jeff Davis from PHS, and Jacob Braniff and 6-5 Clayton Cottrille from South.
"So we've got a group of quality pitchers - the best we've had in a long time. So we are looking to do some damage on the hill this year."
Unlike last season, said Goodwin, when "we would give up seven or eight runs a game, but score 15. And we've got that 15 back. So offensively and defensively, we really look good. We lost a few players from last year, but we're a better team this year than what we were last year."
At first base will be Paul Fichtelman (PHS, Potomac State) or Murphy, Lucas Goodwin (PHS) or Devon Crews (Ravenswood) at second, Case Edgar (Williamstown, Marietta College), Clay Walters (South) or Crews at shortstop with Logan Dudley (PHS) at third.
Manning the outfield positions will be South's Tre Jackson (also DH), PHS' Damon Ribeiro in center or right field and the Patriots' Braxton Johnson in center, along with several multi-purpose players in Wirt County's Austin Cottrell and South's Jacob Wilcox and Hunter Hamilton, while handling the duties as lead catcher will be Jordan Braniff from South.
Thirteen of the 20 players are back for their second year or more with Post 15, while Edgar is Post 15's second five-year man, with PHS' Brett Burns being the first to do so.
Goodwin meanwhile is approaching 500 wins in his 24 years (in two stints) as Post 15 manager. His win total is currently at 491.