VFW baseball team relies on youth, balance

The only thing unbalanced about the Monticello VFW baseball season to this point is their age, at least in comparison to those they are competing against.
After a 7-1 loss to Brainerd Monday morning, Monticello holds a 7-6 record, including 5-5 in league play. They’ve played mostly close games. They’ve relied on a balanced combination of good pitching, good fielding and timely hitting to pick up most of their wins. And they’ve counted equally on incoming sophomores and incoming juniors.
With kids spread amongst the two grades, it makes for a balanced roster. But not necessarily a level playing field. Most VFW teams are made up almost entirely of incoming juniors. But with a shortage in numbers, Monticello has called up seven kids from the class of 2016 to help fill out its roster.
“It’s a youth movement of sorts,” said Coach Joe Rosh. “They are a very talented class.”
They, along with the juniors, have been admirably consistent throughout the season.
Relying on multiple strike-throwing pitchers, led by Dan Blackstone and Jack Bourgeois, combined with a strong infield, has helped Monticello keep games low-scoring throughout the year, meaning they’ve been in most games.
“It is a really balanced team,” said Rosh. “Infield play has been very good.”
At the plate, Monticello has been led by Aaron Wisecup, Tyler Otto and Cole Bovee. All three are hitting over .400 for the season.
Monday, Monticello fell to league-leading Brainerd, 7-1. Blackstone got the start on the mound, going five innings. Kyle Goodwin pitched in relief. The lone Monticello run came on a RBI double from Tyler Otto. While the loss dropped Monticello to .500 in league play, they have plenty of upcoming changes to change their record in one direction or the other.
Starting with a 10 a.m. game this Thursday versus Little Falls, Monticello could play seven games in six days.
Included in that mix is a three-day tournament in St. Cloud this weekend. And immediately following that stretch, Monticello gets one day off before beginning postseason play with a best two out of three subsection series starting July 18. The overwhelming amount of games in a short amount of time will place added importance on the pitching aspect of the game.
“Managing  pitching at this point is difficult,” admitted Rosh. “But keeping our pitchers fresh going into sub districts is far and away the most important thing.”
That said, the kids are still excited to head up to St. Cloud for the tournament, where the games might not mean much, but they get to play at Dick Putz and Joe Faber fields.
“Our league games are really more important,” said Rosh. “But tournaments, there are more people there. [And kids get excited] to play at two of the best facilities in our state.”
Following Thursday’s 10 a.m. game with Little Falls, Monticello’s next home game is Monday, July 15 when the local 9 take on Foley. That game is also scheduled for a 10 a.m. start.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at clay.sawatzke@ecm-inc.com

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