Besides lessons learned at the regional level, there are several positives for Washington. Of the 17 players who ended the season on the active roster, 14 are eligible to return next season.
The three “graduates” are Cody Gardner, Mike McGilvray and Dustin Howard.
Gardner, who played this past spring at Truman State University, turned into one of Washington’s top pitchers this season. Gardner’s last three starts were hard-luck losses in the zone, state and regional tournaments.
McGilvray, a Washington High School graduate (not playing college baseball as of this moment), was a defensive anchor in center and batted in the cleanup spot during Washington’s run to the state championship. Few teams challenged his arm to try to score, even at the regional level. He had one of Washington’s hits in the final game against Columbia.
Howard, another WHS graduate who will be playing at Hannibal-LaGrange, patrolled right field for most of the season with Washington and came through with one of Washington’s two hits in the final game. Had the bang-bang call at first base in the eighth inning gone Washington’s way, he would have ended with two hits.
“Hopefully everyone will come back and we can make another run at winning the state championship,” Post 218 Manager Mike Gardner said. “However, I would like to stress that this should not discourage anyone from trying out for next year’s team. We need to have the best 18 players to win another championship.”
And that means that the team will be searching outside the bounds of Washington to secure the best players. If things remain the same, players from Union, New Haven, Pacific, St. Clair and Sullivan as well as other schools would be eligible to play for Post 218.
Two players who have competed for Post 218 in the past but chose to play with club teams this past summer are Zach Walde and Brock Hopkins. Walde is a pitcher and Hopkins plays first base. It’s possible either or both could come back next season.
Additionally, six players from the Post 218 Junior Legion team will have to move up next year due to being too old to play at that level.
Moving up are Kevin Birk, Peter Coulter, Sam Katzung, Grant Ruediger, Garrett Schoenfeld and Justin Schuler.
Competition at positions should make Post 218 even stronger next season. And, with a number of players moving on to college, even this year’s reserves should be much more experienced by the time they get to the Legion season due to filling more important spots at their respective high schools.
That means there could be tough competition for playing time next season.
Three of Washington’s top pitchers could be back next season. They are Borgia graduates Brendan Kleekamp (Lindenwood) and Brendan Feldmann (MCC-Maple Woods) and Borgia senior Tony Helfrich.
A number of others who have seen varying degrees of time on the hill also could return, including Trent Leimkuehler (Borgia/Jefferson College), Matt Jones (Borgia), Luke Hasenjaeger (Washington), Zach Pointer (Washington) and Andrew Sumner (Washington).
Behind the plate, Leimkuehler and Jones could return. They split duties there this past season. Leimkuehler just graduated from Borgia while Jones will be a senior this fall. Normally, the one not catching served as the designated hitter and on-call closer.
The infield is an area of considerable depth and youth for Washington. Three of the four starting infielders will return to their respective high schools this year. They are first baseman Noah Borgerding (Borgia), second baseman Dilan Bollmann (Washington) and shortstop Grant Eckelkamp (Borgia).
Third baseman Jack Kopmann is a recent Borgia graduate and he will continue his career at Westminster College this fall.
Besides those three, Sumner also plays second base.
The outfield is an area of opportunity.
Sam Deschenes, who recently graduated from Borgia and will attend Lindenwood University, is the only starter returning from this year’s team.
From there, Post 218 has options among its returners. Leimkuehler has played outfield in the past and could return there. Kleekamp also has played outfield, but will pitch in college.
Other players returning with outfield experience include Hasenjaeger, Helfrich, Pointer and David McNeal (homeschool).
Of course, the makeup of next year’s team likely will be impacted by others coming out for the team and if anyone eligible to return chooses not to do so.