Reds hope to utilize speed
The American Legion baseball season is officially underway and the Columbus/Lakeview Strategic Legacy Advisors Lakevie Junior Reds look to use speed and talent to create a winning formula.
The Reds already have one notch in the win column after upsetting reigning state champion Wayne 5-4 on Wednesday night in walk-off fashion. They followed that up with a 12-1, five-inning victory over Schuyler on Thursday.
The Reds had success of their own in the 2018 state tournament finishing in third place.
This year, Travis Tessendorf returns to the head coaching position. He said he feels optimistic about 2019.
“We have quite a bit of talent,” he said. “We have a lot of good team speed. We have quite a few returners. Sam Kwapnioski and Cooper Tessendorf will be our top two pitchers. They both pitched last year in the state tournament, so they have quite a bit of experience.
Adam VanCleave, Logan Jaixen and Haustyn Forney will also all be returning players that Tessendorf said he believes will have a big impact.
The biggest question in the mind of Tessendorf will be the pitching. Tadan Bell was the number one pitcher for the Reds last year, but will be on the Blues’ squad this season.
“He was an exceptional pitcher,” Tessendorf said. “That’ll hurt, but that’s good for him that he’s playing on the Blues. We’re excited to get a few new kids too. We have Brody Mickey, who will be leading off. He played a little JV and reserves. He’s got tremendous speed and just good plate awareness.”
Those aren’t the only new players Tessendorf highlighted.
“Shayden Lundstrom will be there also playing our third base and infield,” he said. “Garret Oakley will be our catcher and also pitching a little too. Garret is a big kid, nice athlete, from Scotus. We have a lot of nice athletes up and down the line.”
The Reds will also have to figure out how to overcome the hurdle of youth and inexperience at the Legion level.
“We’re young. We have quite a few kids that, this is their first year playing Legion ball, as that’s always been the case with the Reds. Most of our kids are new besides a few returners, mostly from Lakeview.
“Most the Columbus kids, other than Sam Kwapnoski, this is all their first year playing Legion baseball. The boys are a little bit bigger and stronger than what they had in club baseball.”
While the team may lack experience, Tessendorf said he believes that his team has the speed to earn extra bases, put pressure on the defense and introduce an element into the game not every club can match.
With that kind of lineup, Tessendorf said the Reds won’t be swinging for the fences but will instead be working at bats for good pitches, walks and finding ways to get on base.
“We’ll be more of a contact team,” Tessendorf said. “We’ll have to do some bunting, hitting, running trying to manufacture some runs. We’re not a really big team that’s going to drive the balls through the alleys and out hit other teams. We’re gonna have to bunt, hit and run.”
Mickey and VanCleave have both proven themselves in track an field - something Tessendorf said will give his group an advantage on the diamond.
“We have a lot of team speed with Brody Mickey, Adam VanCleave both have track speed,” he said. “Those along with Cooper and Logan Jaixen and Hausten Forney, those five guys alone are some of the fastest kids in Columbus baseball right now.
“If we can get them on base we should be able to bunt, steal, hit and run. Sam and Garret Oakley are probably are strongest hitters that can drive the ball. We hope to get some kids on base and let them drive some runs in.”
The Reds played in their second game of the season on Thursday night when they traveled to Schuyler.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org