By Matthew Davis
A return to Legion baseball for Fridley Post 303 hasn’t raised a lot Chicago Cubs ‘W’ flags, but the team has appreciated the challenge.
“It’s what we need … if we want to get to that next level of us going to the state tournament in high school baseball,” said Fridley Legion and varsity assistant coach Louis Grosklags.
In the spring, Fridley wen 16-7 and reached the final five of the Class 3A Section 4 tournament. The Fridley VFW team went 13-7 in the regular season last year in lieu of Legion baseball.
Fridley choose between VFW and Legion some years based on how many seniors the team will have, Grosklags said. Legion takes juniors, seniors and 19-year-olds, so some teams field players with college baseball experience. VFW has freshman and sophomore players primarily.
Fridley finished 2-11 in North Hennepin League play this summer, a league that has three teams drawing from schools that sent squads to the Class 4A state tournament in the spring – Champlin Park, Maple Grove and Blaine. Fridley’s varsity seldom sees such teams playing in Class 3A and the Tri-Metro Conference.
“On varsity … we’re always hitting great and we’re running, gunning on the bases. It’s definitely tougher at this level, facing more of the bigger schools and older guys that throw harder and have better breaking balls,” Fridley pitcher Evan Shaw said.
Fridley earned its only two league wins against Champlin June 20 in a 3-0 victory followed by Westphal Armstrong July 5 in a 6-5 victory. In Fridley’s season-opening tournament, Post 303 beat Coon Rapids 7-4 in a game that didn’t count for North Hennepin standings.
“If we play our game and don’t commit the costly errors, we can be there with anybody,” Grosklags said.
Fridley also had number of close losses, included 9-8 defeat against Andover July 6. Post 303 also fell in three-run losses to Osseo, 8-5, June 14 and St. Michael Blue, 4-1, June 28 and Elk River, 7-4, July 12.
Grosklags said errors have been a big part of Fridley’s struggles to make the win column consistently. Shaw sees it too.
“That’s one of the troubles we’ve had is focus in the games,” Shaw said.
Legion has provided the opportunity for younger players to develop though. Grosklags mentioned juniors Cooper Severson, Micha Couwenhoven and Jake Johnson among the most improved players.
“Hopefully a lot of them will be helping us next year with the varsity program,” Grosklags said of the younger players.
Grosklags said Shaw, also a junior, has been a steady pitcher all summer for the team.
Fridley ended its regular season with a 13-5 defeat Monday at home against Totino-Grace’s Legion squad, also sponsored by Post 303. The Eagles jumped out to a 5-0 before Fridley tied things up in the fourth inning. The Eagles closed out the game with eight unanswered runs.
Fridley began Sub State 9 tournament play in Coon Rapids Wednesday after press deadlines.