Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 legion team back in action

BEVERLY – The boys of summer are back in action and this year’s Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 American Legion baseball team will be a rather youthful one.

One year after finishing 20-19, head coach Todd Engle returns with a team that at press time consisted of 12 kids who were either freshmen or sophomores this year.

Possibly the biggest challenge for Engle and his staff this season will be finding replacements for the top three pitchers from last year’s team in Evan Sawyer, Ben Barnes, and Kyler McElfresh.

While this year’s pitching staff may lack in legion experience, several of the top arms have seen plenty of innings in high school.

Among the pitchers on this year’s team are left hander Justin Hill from Warren as well as right handers Derek Layton of Fort Frye and Caleb Heller of Caldwell, both of whom garnered first team all-Eastern District selections this week.

Warren’s Blake Kidder, Warren youngster Chase Weihl and a pair of freshmen from Marietta in Trent Dawson and Isaac Danford could also be in the mix.

One arm to keep an eye on is Phillip Hoffman of Federal Hocking after the sophomore had an outstanding season for the Lancers that included a 20-strikeout performance in their season opener versus Morgan.

Behind the plate figures to be Warren’s Gunnar Smith, who will be counted on to swing a big stick in the middle of the B/L lineup.

Smith, who will be playing his ball next spring for the University of Rio Grande, will likely split the catching duties with Waterford’s Isaac Huffman, who swings the bat from the left side.

The corner infield positions figure to be some combination of Hill or Marietta’s Austin Hefter at first base, with Hoffman and Layton among the candidates for the hot corner.

A real strength for this year’s team should be up the middle as Warren’s Ethan Estes and Parkersburg Catholic’s Jake Ullman are both outstanding fielders who have the ability to hit for both average and for power.

Estes is already off to a big start after connecting for home runs in both games of the season opener twinbill on Monday.

Warren’s Lance Schafer will likely hit towards the top of the lineup while returning to man center field after having a very successful 2013 campaign.

Huffman and Kidder are strong candidates for the corner outfield positions while Warren’s Bryce Gandee, Marietta’s Devin Leister and Turner Hill, and Fort Frye’s Trent Bradford could also see playing time.

Warren’s Joel Estes and Trace Schafer are both quality defenders who could force their way into the lineup while fellow Warriors Garrett Kennedy and Kyler Dennis provide versatility.