Oconomowoc at CF Post 77 7-1-18

Nolan Hutzler attempts to turn a double play for the Chippewa Falls Post 77 senior legion baseball on July 1, 2018 at Casper Park.

The Chippewa Falls Post 77 senior legion baseball team shouldn’t be devoid of leadership this summer.

With multiple players willing to step up and push each other to excellence, a veteran group could put together a productive season during what will be a jam-packed schedule.

“It’s not really a one-guy leadership kind of thing,” Post 77 coach Drew Steinmetz said of the team. “It’s more that they’re on each other, and what I mean by on each other is they give each other constructive criticism, but it’s a good criticism.”

“... it resonates throughout the senior class. They really pick each other up, they pick the younger kids up when they are down.”

Steinmetz said individuals like Luke Schemenauer, Dane Weiland and Nate Hayes are three of the players that will be key both on the field and in the dugout as the trio play their final season for Post 77. Matt Pomietlo has also impressed Steinmetz with his desire to learn and get better, which rubs off on some of the younger players. The bonds the group has already created away from the baseball diamond could provide a significant boost to winning this summer.

“I haven’t really seen a closer friendship between all of them,” Steinmetz said. “They really all get along, they’re engaged in one another’s future endeavors. ... They’re all really good friends, and I think that plays straight into how they play baseball.”

This year’s group will be led by its bats. Two of those bats will be playing beyond this year as Weiland is a Winona State baseball commit and Schemenauer will be suiting up for the College of St. Scholastica next year. Steinmetz hopes the offense can cover up depth issues on Post 77’s pitching staff. The group will be more dependent on good defense to back it up with a more pitch-to-contact approach.

“We’re not going to overpower teams with our pitching,” Steimetz said. “It’s going to be more good defense and good offense.”

The schedule will make for a busy summer for Post 77 with regular-season, two-game sets against Altoona, Marshfield, Holmen, Duluth and Eau Claire and a pair of doubleheaders versus Superior. Post 77 will also host it’s home wood bat tournament June 28-30 at Casper Park before a tournament at Oconomowoc in early July and a mid-July trip to Minnesota to play in the Gopher Classic.

Regionals are set to start July 19 and the state tournament begins a week later. Chippewa Falls will host this year’s class AAA legion state tournament at Casper Park. By hosting Post 77 will be guaranteed a spot in the field no matter the regional finish.

“I really think the kids are going to have that feeling of, ‘We get to host this, let’s show all these teams from around the state what we are and what we represent and what kind of baseball we play,’” Steinmetz said of having the state tournament in Chippewa Falls.

Although Post 77 earns an automatic bid into the state field, Steinmetz is still looking for the group to earn its way there by playing its best when the playoffs begin. With challenging tests throughout the summer both against other local squads and at regional tournaments Post 77 will have plenty of opportunities to grow as a team.

Tuesday’s season-opening doubleheader at home against Superior was postponed and will be made up at a later date. Post 77 will begin its season on Thursday by traveling to Altoona for a nine-inning game. The team hosts Marshfield in a doubleheader Saturday before a doubleheader at Holmen on Sunday.

With nine players having just graduated high school and playing their final summer of baseball together, Steimetz looks for the chemistry of the group to be the catalyst for a positive season.

“I truly just want these kids to enjoy the summer because that is what legion ball is about,” Steinmetz said. “It’s just having fun playing baseball with your friends and and winning championships is an add-on.”

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