For Poe, commute more than worth itJuly 25, 2017
By MICHAEL HUGHES
HUNTINGBURG — Andy Lasher needed pitchers. Specifically, he and the Dubois County Bombers needed a southpaw. The few left-handed pitchers Lasher thought were coming at the start of the summer didn’t show up, and he wasn’t comfortable with the amount of arms he had available.
That’s when he turned to Willie Poe — a member of the 2015 Bombers team that won the Ohio Valley League championship, and has served as a sort of ringer for this year’s squad. Most recently, that meant Poe firing 41⁄3 innings of scoreless relief in Monday’s 9-7 playoff semifinal Game 1 win against the Paducah Chiefs to earn his second win of the summer. The Bombers and Chiefs meet again tonight in Kentucky with a chance for the Bombers to advance to the championship round with a win.
“He’s only coming to home games, and if we don’t have Willie Poe today, we don’t win,” Lasher said. “He was that good.”
Poe hasn’t been used much — only seven innings throughout the regular season — since he wasn’t exactly planning on suiting up for the Bombers (32-12) again. After his stint in 2015, Poe returned to his college team at Bellarmine University in Louisville and blew out his pitching elbow, which required Tommy John surgery.
The Lexington, Kentucky, native worked his way back to throw four innings in the 2017 season before the same elbow flared up again. The initial scare of another torn ligament faded, but Poe sat out the rest of the season. Originally, that was going to be it. His college coaches wanted him to rest and not throw this season.
But when Lasher sent Poe the text message asking his availability, the Bellarmine staff changed its mind.
“It’s been a long road,” Poe said. “I’ve had some issues basically every year I’ve been in college. I feel really good right now and I’m just trying to keep that up, keep doing my rehab, keep my arm in good shape and keep doing what I’m doing.”
The reason Poe is only present at certain home games is because he already made alternate plans for this summer. He needed money, so he found a job at a golf course in Louisville doing course maintenance. With his new evening plans that can make for some long days.
Lasher typically lets Poe know the day before a game if he’ll be used, so when Poe goes to work in the morning he can pack his baseball equipment and leave straight from work at 2:30 to make the hour and a half drive to Huntingburg.
“We didn’t really have a lot of options in terms of bringing other guys in the whole summer, so if he could only be here part-time I would take it, and he’s our only left-handed pitcher,” Lasher said. “I’ll do whatever we got to do to get a lefty in there and it worked really well today with all the lefties they have in the lineup.”
Poe scattered three singles throughout his relief appearance Monday against the Chiefs (21-23) in his most extended outing of the summer to make that commute worth it.
But Lasher can’t predict the future, so there are times when he asks Poe to make the trip only to watch the entirety of the game from the bench. That was the case in Sunday’s 8-1 win to eliminate the Fulton Railroaders. The plan was for Poe to pitch, but that was before Tyler Hagedorn fired a complete game.
“He was good with it,” Lasher said. “I’ve known Willie for a few years and the fact he had to drive up here an hour or an hour and a half and not pitch — I know he’s good with it because he loves being here.”
That’s why Poe didn’t spend much time thinking about Lasher’s offer earlier this summer. Besides the fact being the only lefty on a team would allow him ample opportunity to pitch, he remembered his last stint in Dubois County.
Even if it’s only part-time, and even if he had to rush back to Louisville after the game Monday since he was working again this morning at the golf course, the chance to start building his arm strength back up before his redshirt junior season at Bellarmine in a friendly environment — he couldn’t say no.
“It can be exhausting,” Poe said. “It’s busy, but it’s fun. I love this atmosphere and it’s a lot of fun.”
Eyeing a title
The Bombers took Game 1 on Monday night, giving them two shots to close out their semifinal series against the Paducah Chiefs.
Game 2 — 8 p.m., today at Paducah
Game 3 — 7 p.m., Wednesday at Dubois County, if necessary
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