New Legion coach looking for ‘special’ season this year

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Expectations are high for the Hillsboro American Legion Post 366 baseball team this season.

Head coach Brady Marsh, in his first season with the local Legion program, has a roster loaded with players from this season’s Hillsboro High School state-tournament-qualifying team.

Add to that mix several players from Peabody and one from Lincolnville, and Marsh is confident this team can be special.

“We have eight seniors on this team and they’ve all been strong as far as leadership goes all year long,” Marsh said. “These guys are used to playing hard and I think the sky is the limit.”

Assisting Marsh this summer will be Jess Tracy, a Tabor College standout this past season. Lyman Adams, longtime Legion team coach, will return this season as manager.

“Lyman Adams get everything together and runs things,” Marsh said.

Marsh feels his team’s strength will be athleticism.

“We have a lot of guys who can pitch, a lot who can play different positions, and we should be able to run the bases well, too,” he said. “Once we get everything ironed out, we should be a good base-running team.”

As mentioned, the team is loaded with talent from this year’s outstanding Trojan team, including Andy Brubacher, Steven Chisholm, Jared Fish, Tyler Goldsby, Chad Hughbanks, Shawn Hughbanks, Kris Jones, Dustin Jost, Caleb Marsh, Jerod Metcalf, Graham Ratzlaff and Ben Walker.

Joining from Peabody are Ryan Gaines, Jesse Barnhardt, Ken Mayfield and Bryan Swenson.

Todd Stahlecker from Lincolnville, a key contributor from a year ago, will return for a second season.

“We have 15 on our full squad, but with some of them from out of town, there will be days when everyone won’t be able to make it to the games,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he doesn’t foresee a lineup set in concrete, but rather prefers to have interchangeable players.

“I like to give kids a different feel so they don’t feel the same old mundane thing when they go to the ball park,” Marsh said. “Let people bat at a different spot in the order and switch positions in the field. That way they don’t get bored and when we have to switch people around, they’ll be familiar with the position.”

He said pitching will be a team strength.

“We have quite a few guys who can throw the ball,” he said. “That’s alright because we play a lot of doubleheaders and we don’t want to overuse the guys’ arms.”

Marsh said Metcalf, Chisholm, Jost, Caleb Marsh, Hughbanks, Jones, Brubacher, Stahlecker and Swenson will all see time on the mound this season.

Just who will be working behind the plate is still uncertain.

James Bina, an all-state catcher for Hillsboro High this year, is playing for the Wichita Rattlers semi-pro team.

“Right now, our catcher is kind of by committee,” Marsh said. “Chisholm and Caleb caught for us and I think Kris Jones will catch for us also.”

This year’s schedule offers plenty of opportunities to test the talents of this team.

“We have a 36-game schedule along with two tournaments that we should get four games in each,” Marsh said. “We have a really tough schedule, because we’re an AA team and a lot of the teams we play are AAA teams.”

Marsh said he hopes his team will be able to make things happen with its speed.

“I like to be aggressive no matter what we do,” Marsh said. “Whether it’s at the plate, on the bases, or in the way we go after the ball in the field.

“I’m looking forward to the guys understanding what I expect from them and getting an aggressive attitude.

“Right now, well have a lot of base hits that we’ll turn into double,” Marsh added. “We’re trying to stress to the guys that if it’s a sure hit, it’s a double out of the box until we see the other team field the ball cleanly.”

Home games will be played on the Tabor College baseball field.

“We’d appreciate a lot of people coming out and supporting us whenever they can,” Marsh said.

“We’re trying to get things worked out before we go to the zone tournament, because that’s what really counts,” he added. “Getting to state is what the team goal is.”

Getting through the zone tournament won’t be easy though. Included in the same zone as Hillsboro are Ottawa, last year’s defending state champion, Silver Lake, who took third at the Class 3A state tournament, and Andover, a perennial power.

The team travels to Augusta this weekend to play in a tournament. The first home game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, against Lyons.

The doubleheader will begin at 6 p.m.

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