Memorial Day will bring the first chance for fans to see the latest version of the Washington Post 218 Senior Legion team.
Washington will host House Springs at 1 p.m. at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field in the 2012 season opener.
That will be the first time Washington has returned to the field since falling to Festus Post 253 in the winner-take-all state championship game last August in Sedalia.
Mike Gardner returns to manage the Post 218 Seniors, who went 38-5 in 2011.
“I am really looking forward to getting started this year!” Gardner exclaimed. “We have a good group of kids back who experienced getting all the way to the state finals and are hungry for the opportunity to make it back. We also have an excellent group of kids who are stepping up to the senior level this year after having very good success at the junior and freshman levels.”
Post 218 has some returners from last year’s team and adds in players from the Post 218 Junior Legion team which lost to eventual state champion Jefferson City Post 5 Aflac in the Zone Tournament finals. Many of those same players were on Washington’s 2010 Freshman Legion state runner-up squad.
Gardner feels the strength of this year’s team is pitching.
“This might be by far the deepest pitching staff I have had in my five years with Post 218 with Brendan Kleekamp, Cody Gardner and Brendan Feldmann all returning,” Mike Gardner said. “Also capable of starting on the mound will be Luke Hasenjaeger, Tony Helfrich, Zach Pointer and David McNeal. Andrew Sumner, Mike McGilvray, Trent Leimkuehler and Matt Jones will all help out of the bullpen.”
Cody Gardner is the most experienced of the Post 218 players. As a true freshman with the Truman State University team, the Borgia graduate logged six relief appearances with 10.1 innings at the college level.
Borgia graduate Kleekamp was Washington’s top pitcher down the stretch last season and threw the big games in the playoffs. He’s a Lindenwood University recruit.
Feldmann, also of Borgia, was one of Borgia’s top starters this spring.
Hasenjaeger, Helfrich, Pointer and McNeal all have starting experience on the Junior Legion level and were key hurlers during the Post 218 Junior Legion season last year.
McGilvray is another returning pitcher from last year’s Senior Legion team. He also plays center field. Leimkuehler saw relief time last season and threw effectively in the state tournament. Sumner and Jones were key relievers during the Junior Legion season last year.
Another deep area will be in the outfield. McGilvray and Leimkuehler are returning starters, although Leimkuehler also could play behind the plate.
“Mike McGilvray is returning for us in center field and I expect his experience to propel him to a big year,” Gardner said. “We are probably deepest in the outfield with the likes of Trent Leimkuehler, Dustin Howard, Sam Deschenes, Luke Hasenjaeger, David McNeal, Tony Helfrich and Zach Pointer. It will be interesting to see who will emerge to be our starting outfield.”
Behind the plate, Post 218 has a trio of experienced catchers. Jones and Leimkuehler are expected to see much of the catching time. Noah Borgerding also has past catching experience.
On the infield, one starter is returning. Jack Kopmann platooned at third base last season. He will be the starter this year.
Borgerding is expected to start at first base and Grant Eckelkamp is the projected shortstop.
At second base, Dilan Bollmann and Austin Rettke are expected to see the most playing time. Sumner also could play second base.
Gardner sees the schedule as being a challenging one.
“I think our schedule is a bit harder as we are playing everyone twice in the Ninth District,” Gardner said. “Our nondistrict games include: House Springs, Creve Coeur, Manchester, Festus, Jackson, Ballwin, Ste. Genevieve, Moberly and Eureka. We will also again be going to Blue Springs and are having our own Showcase Wood Bat Tournament June 20-24 that features a very strong field of 12 teams. It will be a good challenge and prepare us for the district, zone, and state tournaments.”
Gardner is being assisted by Ben Cassat, Aaron Miller and Jeff Leimkuehler.