Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The newest American Legion baseball team in central Maine is the Somerset Junior Legion squad, which is playing for the first time this season. Somerset is one of 21 Junior Legion teams in Maine. Junior Legion is for players 13 to 17, while Legion is for players 15 to 19.
Somerset coach Rod Stevens said the team got its name because it draws from all of Somerset county except the Fairfield area. In this case, he really means it. One of Somerset's players is Matt Turner, who was a freshman at Forest Hills this spring.
"He travels down religiously," Stevens said.
There are also three players from Valley High School and two from Madison, with the other eight players coming from Skowhegan. Stevens said the team is sponsored by Hight Chevrolet.
Fairfield is the only other team in the area -- the next closest is probably Lewiston -- so road trips are really road trips. Somerset plays in Bethel this evening and in Saco on Saturday morning.
Somerset is 1-3 but has stayed competitive. The losses were by scores of 3-0, 4-1 and 6-4.
"The three games that we've lost, we've seen varsity-level pitching," Stevens said. "It's been very good baseball."
Stevens said Somerset also has strong pitching, led by Cody Laweryson and Trey Michonski. Other top players include Dylan Belanger, Seth Malloy, Cody Saucier and Derek LeBlanc. Valley coach Paul Belanger is an assistant coach.
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Madison Post 39 Legion and Somerset Junior Legion have something of a varsity/JV setup. Madison, which finished last in Zone 2 last summer, is in a three-way tie for first with Post 51 and Gardiner. All three teams are 3-1.
Pitching has been the biggest factor. Cody Moody has won twice, including a 5-0 shutout against Amato's of Rockland. Overall, Madison has allowed 13 runs in four games.
The Post 39ers scored 13 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Amato's on Saturday, and Madison coach Peter Kirby said the hitting is coming around.
"We set a goal at the beginning of the year to try to make the playoffs, or at least make a fight for it," Kirby said. "One of the biggest things for us, with a young team, is we have a lot of speed. If we get on base, we can play with any team."
Taylor Bacon and Kameron Nelson have also pitched well for the 39ers, although Bacon will be leaving for about a week and a half on mission to Kosovo with his church.
"Some of the younger guys have picked up innings here and there, and helped us out big," Kirby said.
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The idea is that you get the bad baseball weather out of the way in the spring, and then you can get all your games in during the summer. It hasn't worked out that way for Gardiner's American Legion team, which has been rained out three times this week.
If the weather holds off, Gardiner will have five games in four days, beginning tonight at Colby College against South China Subway. Gardiner coach Dan Burdin said the three days off might have helped as far as pitching depth, and now the team just needs to find one more starter to get through the weekend. Dennis Meehan returns Friday from a baseball showcase, and Gardiner has three other good starting pitchers in Spencer Allen, Kyle Fletcher and Josh Martin.
Finding a fifth starter out of necessity might be a good thing in the long run. The Zone tournament covers three days, and those games are often decided in later innings.
"Obviously, heading into a Zone tournament, if you've got five good starters, you're in real good shape," Burdin said.
Gardiner is 3-1 and the scores are reflecting a trend around the league. Gardiner is averaging 4.0 runs per game and allowing 2.8. Burdin said he even has a couple players who prefer to use wooden bats.
Gardiner will get stronger in mid-July when infielder/pitcher Ben Crocker returns from a vacation. In addition to veterans like Allen and Mike Phelps, Gardiner is currently starting three 16-year-olds: Meehan at shortstop, Fletcher in center field and Zach Farrin at second base.
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243