By Rob Kiser
Justin Jennings admits last year was a learning experience in his first season as Piqua American Legion Post 184 baseball coach.
Still, Post 184 had plenty of success in a 20-17 season.
“We definitely learned a lot,” Jennings said. “It was the first time doing it.”
One of those things was just how much pitching you need for the American Legion District Tournament in July — so Jennings has put the roster together a little differently this season.
“It is not so much about the variety of pitchers you have, but the quantity of pitching you have,” Jennings said. “We have double digit guys who can pitch.”
The roster will include the following:
Piqua — Michael Anderson (non-legion), Michael Ashcraft, Noah Gertner, Logan Harris, Dakota Iddings, Travis Smith.
Lehman — Brandon Simmons
Bradford — Mason Justice, Walker Branson
Houston — Howie Ludwig
Fort Loramie — Aaron Berger (non-legion)
St. Henry — Josh Osterholt, Andrew Lundvall
Troy — Joseph McGillivary, Matt McGillivary
Versailles — Noah Richard
Many of those players can pitch, which will give Post 184 a lot of versatility.
“A lot of who is playing elsewhere, just depends on who is pitching,” Jennings said.
The catchers will be Joseph McGillivary and Justice, who is back from last year.
“They will both see a lot of playing time,” Jennings said.
“Michael Anderson and Arron Berger can both play third base,” Jennings said about his two non-legion players. “They are pretty much available for any game that isn’t Greenville, Troy or Sidney. (Josh) Osterholt can play third. (Travis) Smith will be at shortstop when he is not pitching.
“Howie Ludwig is a very talented kid who can do a lot of things. He will be at second base when he is not pitching. Walker Branson, Noah Richard and Logan Harris are all in the mix at first base. Noah comes from a baseball family and is a talented player.”
Back to anchor the defense in centerfield is former Piqua standout Noah Gertner.
“It is great to have Noah (Gertner) out there,” Jennings said. “Having him is already helping him. He knows what to do.”
Lundvall will be the leftfielder.
“I think we have a lot of power and he is going to give us a big bat,” Jennings said. “Right field is up for grabs. There are several kids and they just need to go out and show me that they want the job. Michael Ashcraft and Matt McGillivary could both see time in rightfield.”
Jennings staff will include manager Jeff Jennings, pitching coaches Levi Hahn and Aaron Christy and hitting coach David Moss.
“We are excited about the staff we have this year,” Jennings said.
The schedule will include the Wittenberg Memorial Tournament to kick off the season Saturday, the Ottawa Tournament and the Hillbilly Hardball Classic in West Virginia in June.
Post 184 will also be hosting the first Piqua Post 184 Invitational July 1-3.
But, as always the focus will be on the District tournament, where they will compete against Troy, Sidney and Greenville for the right to play in the State American Legion Tournament.
“Absolutely,” Jennings said. “It is what I have been thinking about since the season ended last year. We definitely want to continue to build on last year. We have a great mix of returning players and talented young players.”
And Jennings will be year wiser, after some valuable learning a year ago.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334