GETTING READY: Madison Post 9 manager Tim Armstrong (above) goes over pickoff plays at second with his team during practice on Wednesday. Second baseman Mackenzy Withered makes the throw to first (below) as Grayson Rhoten slides into second and Xavier Barnes backs up the play. The Niners will face Terre Haute in the opening round of the regional on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
GETTING READY: Madison Post 9 manager Tim Armstrong (above) goes over pickoff plays at second with his team during practice on Wednesday. Second baseman Mackenzy Withered makes the throw to first (below) as Grayson Rhoten slides into second and Xavier Barnes backs up the play. The Niners will face Terre Haute in the opening round of the regional on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Madison Post 9 played last week's baseball sectional with an ace of sorts up its sleeve. With just three teams in the tournament and two earning berths to the regional, the Niners knew they only needed one win to advance.

There will be no such safety net this weekend when Madison travels to Terre Haute for the regional tournament. If the Niners want to get back to the state finals for the first time since 2010, they will need to win out this weekend.

"Last week it was a different strategy. We really prepared for that second game on Saturday knowing that if we won that game, we were in the regional," Madison manager Tim Armstrong said. "Now, it's all about the first game. You have to win that first game because you don't want to go through the losers' bracket."

Madison (11-11) will take on host Terre Haute Wayne Newton Post 346 in the second semifinal at 8 p.m. EDT on Friday with Floyds Knobs Post 42 facing Clinton Post 140 in the opener.

The regional is a different format this year than in year's past with both the sectional champion and runner-up advancing to a four-team, double-elimination regional. Floyds Knobs (24-6) beat Madison on Sunday while Terre Haute (31-10) knocked off second year program Clinton (15-12).

Still, only one team can advance to the state finals next week and Armstrong knows that it will not be easy.

"I just got finished telling the guys that this will be a good atmosphere against a very good program," Armstrong said. "Terre Haute is always one of the best teams in the state and they will have some power pitching. There will probably be a couple of scouts there as well. They will have a chance to play on the highest stage."

Madison (11-11) lost both games it played against Floyds Knobs in the sectional last weekend but a victory over Seymour Post 89 in between proved to be the regional clincher.

Armstrong wasn't terribly pleased with the way his team performed in Sunday's championship, an 8-2 loss on Floyds Knobs' home field. The Niners have lost three of four games with Floyd this year, but Armstrong feels his team could easily have won at least one more if not two.

"We weren't focused on Sunday and it showed," Armstrong said. "I think we have proven that if we are focused and mentally ready we can beat anybody. But we have to make the plays that we know we are capable of making."

In Terre Haute, Madison will face a program much like itself. Post 346 has won 28 sectional titles in 29 years and long has been one of the elite legion programs in the state.

Madison had a string of 25-straight sectional crowns broken in 2009 but rebounded to win titles the next two years. The Niners also had a run of eight-straight trips to the state finals between 1996-2003 and 13 overall.

Madison did not field a Legion team in 2008 and has struggled to rediscover its elite status since coming back. But Armstrong said the support from the local post has been invaluable and he is thankful for everything Post 9 has done.

"I told the guys that if they saw a Legion member to make sure to go up and thank them because without them, we don't have a team," Armstrong said. "They have been very generous and are paying for this trip so that not one of our guys has to pay their own way. Not a lot of Legion teams around the state can say that."

The regional tournament will run throughout the weekend with the championship set for Sunday afternoon. The state finals will be at East Central High School in St. Leon next weekend.

---

AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL

Regional Tournament

at Terre Haute

(All times EDT)

Friday, July 26

Game 1 - Floyds Knobs Post 42 (24-6) vs. Clinton Post 140 (15-12), 5 p.m.

Game 2 - Terre Haute Post 346 (31-10) vs. Madison Post 9 (11-11), 8 p.m.

Saturday, July 27

Game 3 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, noon

Game 4 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 3 p.m.

Game 5 - Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 6 p.m.

Sunday, July 28

Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, 2 p.m.

Game 7 - Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6, 5 p.m. (if necessary)