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Legion: Teams using tournament as prep for regionals

Pitch counts, fatigue among factors on the minds of coaches
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Leader Photo by Morgan Rode Bonduel’s Garrett Engel, right, swings at a pitch in front of Shawano catcher Zach Erdmann during Wednesday’s Legion tournament game at Olen Park in Clintonville.

Leader Photo by Morgan Rode Shawano’s Carter Weisnicht sprints toward first base during Wednesday’s Legion tournament game against Bonduel at Olen Park in Clintonville.

The summer seems to just be kicking in for most people, but for Legion baseball teams, the summer season is quickly winding down.

Legion regionals are scheduled to open on Friday, July 19, giving teams about three weeks to determine which lineup configuration and set of pitchers can guide the team through the postseason bracket.

Shawano, Bonduel and Clintonville are all getting a taste of what regionals will be like at the Diamond Cat Tournament in Clintonville this week.

Tournament play opened Wednesday and is scheduled to conclude Saturday, but could run into Sunday because of weather.

The least amount of games a team could play to win the Clintonville eight-team, double-elimination tournament is four. Regionals is also a double-elimination format.

One of the biggest factors going into regionals and its compacted schedule will be player’s pitch counts.

“On my end, this is the point where I judge my pitching staff and managing their pitch counts — it can get a little hectic,” said Bonduel coach Jason Boldt on how the Diamond Cat Tournament helps him prep for regionals. “But this is a good warmup to see what I’ve got and who will be able to throw.”

Players are able to throw a maximum of 105 pitches in a game, but throwing between 81-105 pitches also means that pitcher will not be allowed to take the mound for the following four days.

To be able to pitch on back-to-back days, a player has to throw less than 30 pitches. Players are also not allowed to pitch two times over a three-day period.

Players throwing 31-45 pitches must rest one day, while 46-60 pitches means a two-day layoff. Throwing between 61-80 pitches calls for a three-day resting period.

The pitching rules force coaches to constantly be monitoring pitch counts and be thinking ahead.

“It’s strategy. You always want that W but you’re always trying to stretch it into that next day or two days,” Clintonville coach Randy Finger said. “Us coaches are talking all the time — ‘What do you think? What would you do?’ It’s tough and it kind of ties your hands a little bit, but it’s for the safety of the kids and we get that.”

Some coaches try to have one player pitch and finish each game, while other coaches try their best to take advantage of the pitch count rules.

Shawano coach Kobey Pues used the team’s opening game against Bonduel to stretch Joey Tadych out on the mound.

“Tonight was a good night to get Joey going pitch count wise,” Pues said. “We ran him to almost about 100 I think so this was a good opportunity to stretch him out for when we get to the (regional) tournament…”

From the other dugout, coach Boldt took a different approach. He removed Isaac Boldt, the team’s starting pitcher, with less than 60 pitches thrown to have him available for a potential Saturday game.

Finger knows his pitching staff’s strength is its depth, so he also utilized several pitchers during the team’s opening tournament game against Oconto Falls on Wednesday.

“Well if you ever watch me, I have papers in my hands all the time,” Finger said. “It’s really a huge factor with every pitch. Whether you stop them at 30, whether you go to 45, it’s huge.”

Another factor coaches have to have in the back of their minds is the fatigue that could set in for players over a three-to-five day span, especially with warmer temperatures and the sun beating down on players throughout the game.

Pues reminds his players to constantly hydrate before the game and often utilizes every player at his disposal to afford ample rest to each player.

Clintonville is nearing the end of its busiest portion of the schedule, having played in the Rhinelander Tournament and then three other games since June 14.

Finger has 18 players he can turn to, and he took advantage of that depth by resting some of the team’s frequent starters over the past few games.

Bonduel does not have as much depth, but coach Boldt does have the luxury of having two catchers he can rotate between when playing several games in a short period of time.

Regardless of how things shake out at the Clintonville Tournament, coaches and players will get an idea of how regionals could play out in a few weeks, providing just enough time to make the necessary adjustments and be in the best position to succeed.

RECAP

A full recap of the Diamond Cat Tournament will be published in the July 3 Shawano Leader.