Memorial Day also will be Baseball Day in Washington this year.
The Washington Post 218 Senior Legion team opens play at home Monday with a 1 p.m. game against House Springs.
It’s the first time since Post 218 (38-5 in 2011) will play as a team since falling to Festus in the winner-take-all game at the State Tournament in Sedalia last August.
“I am really looking forward to getting started this year!” Post 218 Manager Mike Gardner said. “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 returns seven players with Senior Legion experience. Nine others played for last season’s Junior Legion team which reached the Zone Tournament finals, losing to eventual state champion Jefferson City Post 5 Aflac.
Brendan Kleekamp, Cody Gardner and Brendan Feldmann all return from last year’s pitching staff.
Kleekamp, a Borgia graduate heading for Lindenwood this fall, got the ball in many of the biggest games down the stretch. He earned two wins at the zone tournament and followed that up with two wins in the state tournament.
Cody Gardner is coming off a season with the Truman State University Bulldogs. Feldmann was one of Borgia’s top pitchers this spring.
Other returners who could see time on the mound include Mike McGilvray and Trent Leimkuehler.
McGilvray was the starting center fielder for Post 218 last season and pitched at times. Leimkuehler finished the season as Washington’s closer and also played outfield and catcher. He was one of the top batters for Post 218 last season.
Washington’s other returning players are infielders. Jack Kopmann platooned at third base last season and should be the top player there this summer. Austin Rettke was a utility player last season and pitched as well. He’s a candidate for the second base position.
Moving up from last year’s Junior Legion team are Dilan Bollmann, Noah Borgerding, Grant Eckelkamp, Luke Hasenjaeger, Tony Helfrich, Matt Jones, Davis McNeal, Zach Pointer and Andrew Sumner.
Two others, Sam Deschenes and Dustin Howard, are veterans of the Post 218 program but did not play last season.
Gardner has several players who could join the top three on the pitching staff. Hasenjaeger, Helfrich, McNeal and Pointer have pitched on the Legion level before. Sumner and Jones were key relievers for the Juniors last year.
Behind the plate, Leimkuehler and Jones likely will be the top picks. Borgerding also has catching experience.
On the infield, the likely starters are Borgerding at first, Bollmann or Rettke at second, Eckelkamp at shortstop and Kopmann at third.
In the outfield, McGilvray anchors things in center field. There are plenty of candidates for positions from there.
Deschenes, Hasenjaeger, Helfrich, Howard, Leimkuehler, McNeal and Pointer are in the mix as well.
Gardner feels Washington has an ambitious schedule.
“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.”
The Ninth District is a little smaller this season and the division system in place last year won’t be used this season.
Gardner is being assisted by Ben Cassat, Aaron Miller and Jeff Leimkuehler.