Baseball: Legion teams pushing experience levels
The theme was similar at American Legion ballparks around the area this week.
“The 2020 season starts now.”
New Richmond, Somerset and St. Croix Central all got their Legion seasons underway this week. New Richmond had games for its Senior and Junior teams, while Somerset and Central got their Junior teams into action.
The New Richmond Seniors started on Monday, losing a pair of games at Altoona. Their games against Oakdale on Tuesday were postponed for July 8 and Post 80 split games at Hudson on Wednesday.
The Post 80 Seniors opened with 9-7 and 7-5 losses at Altoona. Fans of the recent Tiger varsity season will see a whole new cast with this summer’s team. The Tigers graduated large and talented senior classes each of the past two seasons.
“There’s big shoes to fill everywhere,” said Chris Riba, the lead coach for the Senior team. “That’s part of the purpose of this program.”
Riba was pleased that the team continued to fight back after falling behind in the games. Six pitchers got experience for New Richmond in those two games.
Post 80 earned its first win in the opener Wednesday at Hudson. Charlie Thibodeau was in command on the mound. He limited Hudson to four hits in seven innings, not allowing an earned run while striking out 11. He also led the offense with two hits and two runs scored.
In the second game, Post 80 wore down late, losing to Hudson 9-2.
The New Richmond Juniors started their season on Thursday, sweeping a double-header at Somerset, 13-6 and 6-0. New Richmond broke the first game open early, building up a quick 9-1 lead. Dom LaDuke pitched five innings to win the first game. Jaxon Altena produced four hits and three runs and Lane Bauer two hits and two runs.
Altena pitched the complete game in the second game, allowing three hits and two walks in his five innings of work, striking out seven. Brock Unger and Jack Espiritu both scored twice and Unger had two hits.
Coach Brad Altena said the challenge this season will be getting all the pitchers time on the mound. Of the 14 players on the roster, nine can pitch. Having 24 games on the schedule will help get the pitchers their work. It isn’t just the pitchers who are being groomed. Two players have moved to catcher for the summer to learn that trade.
Somerset only has a Junior team this summer. Their season started with the double-header Thursday against New Richmond. Somerset’s team is being coached by high school English teacher Will Rossmiller, who has a coaching minor from UW-Stevens Point.
Somerset’s games scheduled for Tuesday were postponed. Somerset started slowly in Thursday’s games, but got steadily better after spotting New Richmond a 9-1 lead in the opener. Jacob Miller, Bailey Mullenberg and Nick Swanson pitched the opener. Aaron Shartin-Folkert was sharp in the second game, which was 3-0 until Somerset’s defense gave New Richmond three late runs.
Rossmiller said getting pitchers experience is one of the priorities this summer, saying nine players are in line to get some mound time. Getting players more game experience wherever possible is another priority.
“That’s what Legion ball is about for us, getting guys in new situations,” he said. Somerset has 20 players on its roster this summer.
Somerset is back in action Tuesday, playing at Cumberland Somerset will host Chippewa Falls next Thursday.
St. Croix Central
The Post 432 Junior team started its season on Friday, losing a home game to Prescott, 11-6.
With Central having two Legion teams, the Junior squad will be young. There were six players going into their freshman year on the Central squad Friday. Jackson Sundeen and Brady O’Brien split the pitching duties for Central in the game that was shortened to five innings because of rain.
Central assistant coach Dan O’Brien has high hopes for the team this summer. He said most of the players on the roster will get a chance to pitch during the season.
“It’s a good group of kids. They’re learning,” O’Brien said.
The Central Junior team has games scheduled next Tuesday and Wednesday at Amery and Altoona. Central’s Senior team will be at Osceola Tuesday before hosting Plum City on Thursday.