Elgin Post 57 long on experienceBurlington Central's Sam Klein throws to first for the out against Hampshire on Friday in Regional play at Hampshire. | Karen Naess~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 7, 2011 6:37PM
Elgin Post 57’s American Legion baseball season will take on a different look this summer even if many of the players are holdovers from last year’s 18-8 campaign.
The different look is the new conference format which eliminates the need for a county level postseason tournament.
“I’m in favor of this conference setup because it should end a lot of the problems with fixed rosters and the county tournament,” Post 57 manager Joe Morel said. “Rosters will be set in advance and it’s going to put a big emphasis on deep pitching staffs.
“Also, it used to be that our whole season was geared for the postseason tournament and it kind of diminished the importance of the other games and other tournaments we played in. So this will be a welcome change to play regular-season games with some meaning.”
The teams will vie in the District 11 Conference for seeding in the District 11 tournament, and Post 57 has what Morel considers a potentially deep enough pitching staff to handle this kind of expanded schedule.
Elgin Community College’s Ryan Burke, Burlington Central right-handers Sam Klein and Joey Lange, ECC left-hander Nick Schwiesthal, South Elgin right-hander Ryan Hicks of Illinois Wesleyan and former Hampshire left-hander Kent Larson, Hampshire right-hander Cameron Waterman, St. Edward right-hander Luke Duffy, Culver Stockton and former Larkin right-hander Reid Ellis, Marquette and former St. Edward right-hander Jordan Torres, and possibly a few others comprise a pitching staff that Morel and general manager Bob Todd think could be deep enough to handle a conference and tournament-heavy schedule.
South Elgin right-hander Tyler Rydin, a middle infielder, could also see time on the mound. He didn’t play for South Elgin because of a shoulder injury last season.
“I think we’ll have excellent flexibility with this staff,” Morel said.
Position-wise, Post 57 can count on filling all positions except catcher and third base with returning players who played those positions on a given night.
“There aren’t a lot of positions where we are weak,” Todd said.
Bradley University’s Austin Jarvis, Ellis (2B), Klein (SS, OF), Hicks (1B), Hampshire’s Dan Grzywa (C, IF, OF) and Zack Skog (1B, 2B, OF), Burlington Central’s and ECC’s Drew Stover (2B) are returning players who figure to play extensively.
The addition of nine new players, including Rydin, Duffy (OF), Lange (OF) and Waterman (OF), could make it a more versatile, deeper team. St. Edward’s Ryan DiCristofano (2B, OF), Hampshire’s Nick Holze (1B, 3B, OF), Kyle Kinyon of Maryville University and South Elgin (C), Schweisthal, and Larkin’s Austin Lodge (2B, 3B) are the other new additions.
Morel said he expects to play Grzywa a lot at third because Klein and Burke both can play shortstop. Kinyon and Lange could do much of the catching.
Jarvis had planned to play in a wood bat league in Ohio, but a rotator cuff injury suffered while he was at Bradley caused the former Burlington Central star to alter his plans. He didn’t need surgery, and probably will have a steady diet of being DH.
“He might get some catching later on; we’ll wait and see on that,” Morel said.
Morel thinks last year’s experience during a rain-shortened season will go a long way toward success this year.
“We had this thing that built up with the players, a theme: ‘trust,’” he said. “It became our theme last year, to trust our teammates, and we’ll see if we can carry that on into this season.”
Post 57 hosted its own early bird tournament over the weekend and opens conference play at New Lenox on Thursday. The next home game is Tuesday with Richmond. All home games are at Wing Park.
The District 11 tournament July 12-17 is slated for Plainfield.