AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL: Solid pitching helps Florissant get off to nice start

2010-06-17T14:37:32Z 2010-10-11T14:26:18Z AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL: Solid pitching helps Florissant get off to nice startBy Staff | STLhighschoolSPORTS.com stltoday.com
June 17, 2010 2:37 pm  • 

Post 444 American Legion team was one of the youngest in District 10 last season.

Even though Florissant has several returning starters, not much has changed in 2010.

"I still think we're one of the youngest teams in the league," said Florissant coach Todd Wright. "We're still pretty young even though we have a lot of kids who have played for us."

That year of experience appears to have paid off, at least in the early going. Wright's team was 3-2 overall (1-1 in league play) heading into competition this week.

"We're playing pretty good," Wright said. "It's probably going a little better than I expected."

When you have pitching like Post 444 has, that tends to make things go a little smoother.

Florissant is led by two stalwarts of the McCluer North staff this spring in seniors CJ Spink and Ricky Cody. Spink was 4-5 this spring for the Stars, but he had a solid 2.32 ERA in 57.3 innings of work. He also had a ridiculous strike out to walk ratio of 10-1 (60 strikeouts and six walks).

Cody also got in several innings for McCluer North, as he pitched 47.3 innings and compiled a 3-5 record with a 3.40 ERA.

Having those two would be good enough, but also on hand is Cody Hunt, another McCluer North senior who pitched 23.3 innings this spring with a 3.90 ERA. Nick Wildman (McCluer North) also can take the ball.

"Our pitching has been outstanding," Wright said. "It's nice to have more than one or two guys who can take the ball. That makes a big difference when you can let guys rest their arms a few games and not burn them out."

Spink and Wildman can also handle the bat. Spink batted .342 with 19 RBI this spring while Wildman hit .351 with 18 RBI.

Florissant has gotten off to a slower start at the plate, but Wright expects that will change.

"I'm sure that the bats will come around," he said.

Wright said the fact that many of the players have been together the last few years playing both high school and summer ball together should also help.

"The kids all know each other and they know each other's tendencies," Wright said. "That helps a lot, especially on defense."

With that in mind, Post 444 has set its sights set high this summer.

"I really feel like we can play for a district title," Wright said. "We have the players in place and we have the pitching. We'll see how it plays out."

The Thoman Boothe American Legion team is a melting pot of sorts.

While most teams get their players from one or two high schools, Post 338 has players from six different schools on its roster. Thus, it has taken everyone a little while to get on the same page.

"We were struggling defensively most of the year, and I think a lot of it is due to the fact that we have kids from so many different schools," said Post 338 coach Daniel Edson. "These kids did not know each other and it's taken some time for them to jell as a team."

That may be starting to occur. After a 1-4 start to the season, including an 0-3 start at a tournament at the Heine-Meine Tournament, Thoman Boothe managed a fourth-place finish at a 16-team, wood bat tournament in New Baden, Ill., over the weekend.

"We played a lot better," Edson said. "Hopefully, it's starting to come together."

In addition to integrating players from several different schools, Post 338 is integrating about a dozen new players period. Only four players return from last year's squad that finished third in District 10.

Nick Haley, a Ritenour grad now at Harris Stowe, is probably the most experienced player. An infielder who can play second and third, Haley was hitting .308 in the early going with four RBI.

First baseman Patrick Winston (Ritenour), another returner, is off to a .393 start. The other two returning players from last year are outfielder Charles Goodman (Clayton) and pitcher Robbie Gordon (Ladue). Goodman was off to a slow start, but hit .390 this spring for Clayton with 30 runs scored.

Thoman Boothe has gotten some good production from some of the newcomers. Curtis Adams, who was 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 46 2-3 innings at Burroughs this spring, has worked 12 innings already and is 1-1. He pitched a complete game in beating Trenton, Ill., in the first game of last weekend's tournament. Another John Burroughs product, Rob Dicken, also got a win over the weekend. Dicken was a good luck charm for Burroughs, as he went 4-0 in 10 games pitched this spring.

Sophomore Alex Williams from Ritenour also opened some eyes in New Baden as he pitched a two-hitter in the semifinals against Murphysboro, Ill., but came out on the short end of a 3-1 score.

"I think he's going to get a chance to pitch in a lot of the non-league games," Edson said.

Alex Yates (Ritenour) and Robbie Gordon (Ladue) also will get some mound time.

Edson said he is expecting some big things from his team this summer.

"Our goal is to win Districts," he said. "If you look at the high school seasons these kids had, we look a lot better than last year. We may not have shown it yet, but you got a couple of glimpses over the weekend. I feel like we are ready to get on a roll."

Post 338 will travel to Paducah, Ky., next weekend for a 20-team tournament. Thoman Boothe will be back at Heine-Meine Field for a Fourth of July Tournament.

The Maryland Heights American Legion team spent the weekend at a tournament in Dyersberg, Tenn.

It probably seemed a lot longer than that.

"It was a rough weekend for us," said Post 213 manager Scott Knepper.

The numbers pretty much tell the story. Maryland Height was outscored in three games 43-5 and fell below .500 at 4-5.

On the positive side, Post 213 has been competitive at home, as Maryland Heights was 4-2 before going to Tennessee.

That's not bad considering that several of the players on the team are just rounding into baseball shape.

"We have 16 on the roster and I'd say out of those 16, we got five at the college level that have come back who did not play this spring," Knepper said. "Now, they're trying to get into game shape and catch up to those that either had full high school seasons or college seasons.

"In that tourney down there in Tennessee, we're facing a lot of kids who just recently finished a 40- or 50-game college season and we have guys playing their fifth or sixth game."

Among the veterans are starting pitcher and outfielder John Earnest, starting catcher Ryan Aubuchon, infielder D.J. Thomas and outfielder/pitcher Brett Lauck, all of whom went to Pattonville. Earnest was hitting .400 with seven RBI in the early going. Lauck was batting .353 with five RBI.

The newcomers include Steve Tornatore, a lefthanded pitcher and first baseman who is home schooled, and Robbie Aubuchon (Pattonville), brother of Ryan. Robbie Aubuchon, a third baseman, has seven RBI and a .400 average coming into this week's play.

Post 213 got a nice break when Nick Viviano moved into the Pattonville district. Vivano played at Florissant last year and was an all-conference player at Trinity after hitting .378 with 15 RBI.

Other than the trip to Tennessee, Knepper said things have been pretty positive.

"So far it's not bad," he said. "We've scored a lot of runs, but at times we give up a lot of runs.

"I think we're better than a .500 team. We have depth at every position and that is really nice to have. We've got a pretty solid pitching staff and guys with decent speed. I think we have a good makeup once the guys get used to playing together."

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