Marinette is in it to win it
Legion team seeks momentum before hosting state tourney next week
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 7:00 PM
GREEN BAY - Five teams need to play their way in; Marinette Legion has a state baseball tourney berth already sewed up.
The six-team Green Bay Southwest Regional begins with two games Thursday and runs through Sunday at Southwest High School. At stake is a berth in the Wisconsin Legion AAA state tourney, to be held in Marinette July 31-Aug. 4.
The state tourney host gets an automatic berth, so Marinette has nothing to lose in the regional.
"It's always nice to know you advance to the next round, but at the same time you want to gain momentum," Marinette coach Brian Lesandrini said. "You want to be able to fine-tune. We certainly are going there to win it."
Standing in Marinette's way are defending state runner-up AshPort and Green Bay Southwest, both ranked among the top eight AAA teams in the state.
Marinette will open regional play Thursday at 1 p.m. against the Green Bay Shockers (14-13). In other first-round games, AshPort will play the Appleton DoubleDays at 4 p.m. and the Green Bay Blue Jays will play Southwest at 7.
The Marinette-Shockers winner will play on Friday at 4 p.m. against the Blue Jays/Southwest winner. The Marinette/Shockers loser will play at 1 Friday against the AshPort/Appleton loser.
The Shockers won two of three games against Marinette this summer.
"They haven't seen our pitcher (Dylan Watzka) that we're going to start," Shockers coach Jim Dagneau said. Watzka posted a 1.00 earned run average in league play.
But the Shockers have yet to face Marinette's ace, Jake McMahon (3-0, 1.19 ERA in division play).
Play is extended from seven to nine innings for postseason play. Marinette is blessed with good pitching depth. Austin Belonga, Ty Bebo, Austin Wright, Aaron Benson, Beau DeLaet and Kiefer Powers have all started this summer. Derek Klegin, Scott Eldredge and Nate Kallestad have been impressive out of the bullpen.
But Marinette's defense - solid much of the season - has sprung a leak the past two weeks.
"That's been our Achilles' heel the last couple weeks," Lesandrini said. "We've been a little sloppy, to say the least."
Marinette lost once to Southwest and twice to AshPort this season but did beat the DoubleDays and Blue Jays in their only matchup, so Post 39 is 3-5 against the regional field.
"We certainly can't give them extra outs," Lesandrini said, adding that in the losses to the Green Bay teams, Marinette did give them extra outs.
Southwest's Nate Steffes won the Central Division batting title with a .474 average. AshPort's top hitters are Kyle Mrozinski (.406), Jake Heinzen (.394) and Bret Neuville (.372). The Shockers are led at the plate by Jake Landrum (.355) and Zach Kinjerski (.303).
Southwest's top pitchers are Taylor Eggelhoff (3-1, 2.66 ERA) and Matt Zacharias (2-1, 2.78 ERA).
AshPort has a deep stable of pitchers, including Jack Violetta (3-0, 1.69 ERA), Neuville (2-1, 0.81 ERA), Brett Nohr and Ben Messenger, the son of Mike Messenger, an outstanding Marinette athlete in the 1980s.
Dan Lukes, who led AshPort to state last year and coached outstanding teams at De Pere for years, resigned from AshPort in the midseason.
Klegin won the division batting title with a .528 average. Marinette's leadoff hitter and excellent shortstop, Klegin was second in the league with 13 runs. Also in North Division play, Kallestad hit .423, Luke Kelly batted .400, and Belonga and McMahon each hit .286. Powers batted .500 and DeLaet hit .429, but neither had enough at-bats to rank among the leaders.
"We've been hitting the ball well," Lesandrini said. "We want to win the regional, get momentum and prove we belong in the state tournament."