An exciting state of mind
Marinette team will host state Legion tournament
Wednesday, June 05, 2013 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - The season is set up mighty nicely for the Marinette Legion baseball team. Now, it's up to the players to make the most of an opportunity.
Marinette returns loads of experience from the team which finished 21-16 last season. The Legion AAA state tournament will be held July 31-Aug. 4 at Pedersen Ball Park, and Marinette automatically qualifies as the tourney host.
"This is an exciting time," Marinette coach Brian Lesandrini said. "I couldn't ask for a better group to enter the state tournament. Hopefully we'll be able to put it all together and prove we belong."
If anything defines this Post 39 team, it's versatility. The roster is chock-full of slashes - guys who can play multiple positions. With a schedule that includes nearly 40 regular-season games, that versatility will come in handy.
"I certainly have confidence in this group to put them in a position to be successful," Lesandrini said. "I can put them anywhere and they're going to be able to produce."
Six regulars are back from last season. Among them are third-year Legion varsity players catcher/outfielder Scott Eldredge, Austin Belonga at catcher, first base, outfield and pitcher and Luke Kelly at pitcher, first base and third base.
Pitcher/infielders Jake McMahon, Ty Bebo and Derek Klegin also return. Klegin and McMahon were all-Bay Conference performers for the Marinette Marines this spring.
Outfielder Nate Kallestad and Austin Wright, a pitcher/infielder/outfielder, both got some varsity playing time last summer.
Among the Legion varsity newcomers are Mason Mergener, Beau DeLaet and Kiefer Powers, who all can play almost anywhere. Mergener helped lead the Coleman Cougars to the state title in 2012; DeLaet helped lead the Wausaukee Rangers to state this season. Powers was the best player at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy/Lena this spring.
The other Post 39 players are infielder Aaron Benson, who can also pitch, and Cody Tessmer, a catcher and outfielder.
It's probably the deepest, most versatile team Lesandrini has had in his eight seasons at the helm.
"It's a group that understands the game very well," he said. "To be able to have that flexibility, especially with the amount of players we have, is key. With the lack of runs in today's game, every run is critical. Small ball is the new trend. Every little detail is a huge factor. You have to know the basics of baseball."
The pitching staff doesn't have one ace - it has several. Kelly is back from Lakeland College, where he pitched as a freshman this spring. Lesandrini believes some of the knowledge he gained there could help his Post 39 teammates.
Belonga and McMahon are front-line pitchers, DeLaet pitched a shutout in a sectional semifinal on Tuesday, and Mergener has years of big-game experience and fully understands the art of pitching.
When Wright pitched Marinette to a victory over second-ranked Jefferson this spring, the Jefferson coach said he was the best pitcher his team faced this season. Bebo had a long string of scoreless innings pitched this spring.
"I'm really confident in our pitching and defense," the coach said.
The one question mark is run production.
"Last year we had ups and downs with the hitting," Lesandrini said. "With the new bats, hitting can be streaky. There's a lot more bunt situations, a lot more hit-and-run, more attention to detail. I think our consistency in hitting the ball will be our biggest question mark."
Lesandrini is coached by Dave Klegin, Shawn McMahon and Jordan Kinney.
The season starts tonight at White Lake. In addition to the Fox River Valley Legion League North Division games, the schedule includes a game against Green Bay Southwest at Fox Cities Stadium on Sunday, the June 13-16 Green Bay Southwest Father's Day Tourney, and games against Wausau, Neenah and Sheboygan, among others.
"If any group can handle it this is the group," according to Lesandrini. "They're very strong-willed. There's no question in my mind they'll be able to handle the intensity they need to bring every night. Hopefully this will be the year that it pays off - all the hard work. This is a strong group."