In his first season in charge of the Wisconsin Dells Post 187 American Legion baseball team last year, Aaron VanSchoyck knew his team would take its lumps.
Now with a majority of players from that team back, VanSchoyck said the challenge for this season will be getting the team on the field.
“It’s mainly just getting as many games in as possible,” VanSchoyck said. “Being in the Dells, kids have full-time jobs now so it’s not like school ball where kids have school 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then go to baseball. You have to work around schedules and make sure we have enough kids for specific games.”
Those specific games are referring to the ones that will help Post 187 be eligible for Class A Regional play. Wisconsin Dells scraped together enough games last season to qualify for the Region 6 tournament in West Salem, ultimately reaching the championship game, only to forfeit to West Salem.
VanSchoyck said that in order to help Post 187 accumulate enough games to qualify for Region play this year; he is scheduling a number of doubleheaders and also trying to avoid weekend games due to the heavy need for workers in the tourist-heavy Dells. Post 187 will open the season with a doubleheader next Wednesday against Viroqua.
In the past, Wisconsin Dells has played in the Woodside Summer League on Tuesday nights at Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston, but VanSchoyck said that may not be in the cards this year. According to VanSchoyck, he’s looking at Post 187 playing but nothing is set in stone.
“It’s more of a summer high school league, which brings the level of competition down a bit, but there’s still games being played and there’s a benefit there,” he said.
When Post 187 does take the field, it will have plenty of experience on its side. VanSchoyck will have a large chunk of his players back from last year, and a high number of those players are coming off a deep playoff run with the Chiefs.
“It helps a lot that the lineup coach (Mike) Michalsky had, pretty much all season, stayed the same,” VanSchoyck said. “The continuity should hold true with the Legion team and help a lot.”
Providing a lot of experience for the Chiefs will be Travis Hudack and Dylan Stein. Hudack is coming off a senior season with the Chiefs where he was named an All-SCC first team catcher after batting .393 and had a team-best 24 RBIs and three home runs.
Stein, a 2017 graduate, also racked up the accolades during his career with the Chiefs and both palyers have been part of Post 187’s most recent run to the Class AA state tournament in 2016.
“They’ve made deep playoff runs during high school and early in their Legion careers,” VanSchoyck said. “They know what it takes.”
Along with the duo of Stein and Hudack, the trio of Dylan Anchor, Dylan Musiedlak and Dylan Nevar returns. Never was recently named the SCC Player of the Year, while Anchor was a unanimous first team selection and Musiedlak was a first team pick.
VanSchoyck said that the quintet will be at the top of the Post 187 line-up, but behind that group will be a some younger players. Leading candidates to play behind Post 187’s top group are Josh Bilotta and Mike Mitchell.
“They were both on the high school roster but didn’t get a lot of time, and they will be able to slide into any spot,” VanSchoyck said.
Jake Knetter and Will Van Dinter is another pair of young players and VanSchoyck said that even some players from the Wisconsin Dells eighth grade team he coached in the spring that are physically capable will be on tap.
VanSchoyck admitted that a trip to the Class A state tournament would be nice, “especially after the long run during the WIAA playoffs,” but he knows what is at the root of summer baseball.
“We’re just going to go have fun, make some small changes and maybe play some different positions, and just become a more versatile baseball player,” he said.