Baseball fans who followed the area high school scene this spring should have plenty of familiarity with St. Charles Post 342’s personnel this summer.
The local American Legion baseball team has a roster with a heavy, class of 2013 flavor, especially as it pertains to its pitching staff.
The team’s top pitchers, such as Ankur Shah and Sawyer Chambers of St. Charles North, Nick Huskisson of St. Charles East and Tony Landi of Geneva, are all fresh, high school graduates.
At least for league games and the district tournament, veteran Post 342 coach Dale Wilderspin’s options are limited by a new rule that stipulates college players that were not on the team last season can not be part of the mix.
Attracting quality players to legion ball already had grown highly challenging in recent years with the proliferation of travel baseball programs, so adding another hurdle wasn’t exactly welcome news to Wilderspin.
“American Legion is all about giving kids an opportunity to play but we’re so worried about coaches going out and illegally recruiting players, it gets ridiculous sometimes,” Wilderpsin said.
Still, Wilderspin thinks he has some talent to work with, and Post 342 started the season last weekend by sweeping a pair of doubleheaders in Ottawa. The team will try to defend its Wheaton tournament title this weekend before playing home games Tuesday against New Lenox at St. Charles East and Wednesday against Richmond-Burton at St. Charles North.
A pair of Geneva infielders – Anthony Bragg and Mitch Endriukaitis – bring pop to Post 342’s order. Endriukaitis had a hand injury early in the spring and did not return but was expected to be one of the Vikings’ top sluggers.
Outfielder Dan Berendt is another recent Geneva graduate who brings home run power, and catcher Ryan Thomas (of St. Charles North) and Huskisson also project as offensive threats.
“We should have some punch in the middle of the lineup,” Wilderspin said. “We have guys who can hit a little there. We don’t have true leadoff guys, which is not uncommon, but we’re going to have four, five guys that can hit pretty consistently. … We’ll see what we get out of the rest of them.”
With few college players available this summer, Post 342 will rely upon a youth movement at certain spots, including second baseman Luke Johansmeier and outfielder Nick Barsanti, both underclassmen at St. Charles North.
“We’ve got some quality players but those are critical spots where those young guys are playing and it’s yet to be seen how they’re going to play and if they’re going to get taken advantage of,” Wilderspin said. “They’re good kids and I’m sure they’re going to be good players in high school but they’re so young. It’s hard to tell when they get into real good competition how they’re going to react.”
The regular season lasts for a little more than a month before the district tournament begins the week of July 15.