2013 Season Preview
Practice is officially underway and the Post 22 Hardhats will open the 2013 season on the weekend of May 4-5 with a four-game series against the Billings Scarlets at beautiful Fitzgerald Stadium. Here’s a look at what’s on tap for the new baseball season:
The varsity comes into 2013 with seven returning position players and eight returning pitchers. When you look at the club on paper, the glaring strength has to be the pitching staff. Post 22 lost only one pitcher off of last year’s rotation, Asau Rodriguez (Mount Marty), and of the 504 innings pitched in 2012, the Hardhats’ returning staff threw 367 of those frames. For a young staff that carried a 3.56 ERA last season, the outlook is quite promising now that they have another year of maturity under their belts.
In terms of pure depth, this year’s staff is as strong as the program has seen in more than a decade. Eight pitchers saw significant time on the mound last season, and it puts the club in a unique position. It is rare in American Legion baseball to see a fully developed bullpen, where a coach can utilize depth to exploit pitcher-hitter matchups, use a set-up guy, and a closer. But this is exact position Post 22 finds itself in for 2013.
Here’s a look at the returning pitchers for Post 22:
- Jose Melendez (RP) – The 17-year-old right-hander will be the likely no. 1 for the Hardhats this season. As a 16-year-old, Melendez went 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 64 Ks in 81 innings pitched. He’s made steady gains in velocity this offseason, and with a heavy, sinker like fastball and command of three other pitches, Melendez presents an arsenal of problems for opposing hitters to deal with.
- Ryne Lees (RP) – Lees enters his final season with Post 22 and has been pitching for the varsity for three summers now. His experience and raw athleticism could potentially propel him to his best season yet. Lees went 7-3 in 2012 and led the staff with a 1.26 WHIP. The 6’3 righty carried a 3.65 ERA and chalked up 59 strikeouts in 63 innings.
- Cody Carlson (LP) – The 16-year-old southpaw is one of the bright young prospects in the Post 22 program. As a 15-year-old, Carlson appeared in eight games, including two in the SD State Tournament where he didn’t allow a run. He finished the season with a 2-1 record and 21 Ks in 31 innings with a 4.20 ERA.
- Jake Sullivan (RP) – Sullivan went 5-1 in 2012 with 50 K’s in 55 innings and finished with a 3.02 ERA. A gifted athlete with a live arm, Sullivan will also start in the outfield and play a vital role on the staff.
- John Zastrow (RP) – Zastrow saw a lot of time on the mound in 2012, going 5-6 in 60.2 innings pitched with a 3.58 ERA. With a wealth of experience as a 16-year-old and an offseason spent working out in the Post 22 Academy, look for good things this season from Zastrow.
- Zach Johnson (RP) – Johnson can fill multiple roles for the Hardhats. The gutty right-hander was used as a closer, starter, and long reliever in 2012, and was second behind Lees with a 1.44 WHIP and led the team with a 2.66 ERA.
- Hunter Jackson (RP) – After a redshirting for Mount Marty College in Yankton this school year, Jackson will return to play his final season for Post 22. He pitched in nine games for the Hardhats a year ago, posting a 2-1 record while fanning 14 and walking eight.
With so many arms available, one might think the staff is all locked up. But the reality is that there are a number of promising young pitchers that threw for the Post 22 Expos last season and will compete for a spot on the varsity staff.
Not to be overshadowed by the pitching staff, the returning position players for Post 22 bring a speedy, veteran group back this season.
Offensively, what sticks out is the team speed. In 2012, Post 22 stole 158 bases as a team and can put enormous pressure on the opposing defense. But also look for more pop out of Hardhats’ bats in 2013. The return of Greg Schaefer, who led the team in all major power categories a year ago, is back from college for his final season, and the club is also eagerly anticipating the return of Newt Johnson to the lineup after he missed all of last season with an injury.
Here’s a look at the returning position players for Post 22:
- Jacob James (LF) – The speedy lefty is a prototypical leadoff hitter and this will be his third season starting on the varsity. James led Post 22 with 44 stolen bases last season, and had excellent walk to strikeout numbers. In 303 plate appearances, he struck out only 11 times and led the team with 43 walks. He was on base more than 50 percent of the time and hit at a .395 clip.
- Greg Schaefer (CF) – Also a three-year starter, Schaefer returns for his last season after leading the club in most of the major offensive categories in 2012. He led the team with a 1.011 OPS (slugging+on-base), 66 RBI, 6 HR, 6 triples, and was second on the team with a .391 batting average.
- Jake Sullivan (RF) – Sullivan, who is entering his last season in the program, is the only four-year starter for Post 22. He was second on the team in extra base hits in 2012, and third overall with a .903 OPS.
- Newt Johnson (3B/SS) – At 6’3 215 pounds, Johnson’s return will fill a huge hole left by his absence due to an injured back last season. As a 16-year-old, he had a .930 OPS, led the team in extra base hits, and drove in 47 runs. His return not only strengthens the middle of the order, and offers protection behind Schaefer, he also brings essential leadership qualities.
- Hunter Jackson (SS/2B) – Along with his pitching duties, Jackson will also compete for a job in the infield this season. He hit .304 last season, led the team in doubles with 16, and drove in 47 runs, which was second on the club.
- Carter Wevik (2B/OF) – Another speedster, Wevik ran the fastest 60-time on the club, and stole 27 bases last season. Already in his third year as a starter with another year of eligibility remaining, Wevik won the Big Stick Award at the 2011 state tournament, and had a .438 on-base percentage and hit at a .338 clip last season.
- Jesse Riddle (1B/DH) – With excellent swing mechanics and an aggressive approach at the plate, Riddle has the potential to put up big numbers for the Hardhats in 2013. He hit .340 and drove in 39 runs in 2012.
- Ryne Lees (1B/DH) – Lees has seen solid playing time in the field for the varsity since 2011, and is looking for a breakout final season. The lefty hit .317 with an .820 OPS last year, and .315 in ’11.
- Catcher – With Post 22’s everyday catcher Austin Wickham graduating from the program after last season, the position is up for grabs in ’13. Catchers Matt Minnick and Conner Merriam both split time on the varsity and Expos last season, and Justin Carsrud saw significant time behind the dish for the Expos. The three catchers will battle it out for the varsity job this spring.