The Junior American Legion baseball players in Valmeyer and Columbia are keeping in shape while facing solid high school competition this summer.
Most of all, they’re learning the game and enjoying the chance to play with teammates who will most likely be battling with them when the high school season comes back around in the spring.
“Our younger guys got a good dosage of pitching they would face at the varsity level,” Columbia Post 581 Junior Legion head coach Andrew Thompson said.
The Columbia Junior Legion squad, in just its second season, carried a record of 6-7 into its Tuesday game against Litchfield.
Jake Steve and Sam Bonaldi have been the top pitchers for Columbia this season. Some of the players who received quality at-bats in Columbia’s lineup have been Alex Schreckenberg, Jack Steckler, Carter Hicks and Colin Cygan.
“We had some growing pains this summer. We are a very young team,” Thompson assessed. “Half our roster was made up of 14- and 15-year-olds. They gained some valuable experience facing off against some tougher opponents.”
Columbia battled both Valmeyer Post 901 Junior Legion squads in a doubleheader last Tuesday night at Borsch Park. Valmeyer 2 defeated Columbia, 9-7, and then Valmeyer 1 downed Columbia, 6-4.
“The goal of this team is to get Columbia boys to continue to play together in the summer – even when they play with their club teams – build team continuity and culture,” Thompson said.
Columbia will not participate in the Junior Legion postseason due to a lack of players.
Valmeyer 1, which consists of the older players still eligible for Junior Legion baseball, is 10-5 on the season entering a Wednesday contest with Bunker Hill.
Sam Huebner has been the top pitcher for Valmeyer 1, posting a 3-0 record in 18-plus innings with a 1.91 ERA. The top hitters for Valmeyer 1 are familiar names from the Pirates lineup this past spring: Jacob Rowold (.483, eight stolen bases), Henry Weber (.421, 10 RBIs), Riley McCarthy (.364, 12 runs) and Sam Fitzwilliam (.324, eight stolen bases, 10 RBIs).
Valmeyer 2, which consists of the younger players in the program, is 2-11 on the season.
Drew Shevlin is the top pitcher on that squad with a 1-1 record and 2.95 ERA. The top hitters are Aidan Karsten at .346 and Evan Row-Brown at .276.
Both Valmeyer squads will be competing in the District 22 Junior American Legion Tournament this weekend at Borsch Park.
In fact, the two teams face each other in the opening round at 6 p.m. Friday.
Other teams in the district tourney are Bethalto, Highland, St. Libory and Litchfield/Worden.
Bethalto is the top seed, followed by Valmeyer 1, Litchfield/Worden, Highland 1, Highland 2, St. Libory and Valmeyer 2.