Where does Post 17's Legion team stand after Watertown Baseball Association's Hall of Fame weekend?

·3 min read
Heath Rylance (left), Mitch Johnson (center) and Spencer Waite were each inducted into the Watertown Baseball Hall of Fame along with the 1931 Watertown State Champion Legion team during a ceremony Friday night at the North Shore Chophouse and Banquet Hall. Johnson is a former coach for the Post 17 American Legion team and Rylance and Waite are  former standout players for Post 17.
Heath Rylance (left), Mitch Johnson (center) and Spencer Waite were each inducted into the Watertown Baseball Hall of Fame along with the 1931 Watertown State Champion Legion team during a ceremony Friday night at the North Shore Chophouse and Banquet Hall. Johnson is a former coach for the Post 17 American Legion team and Rylance and Waite are former standout players for Post 17.

The second Hall of Fame weekend turned out to be another rousing success for the Watertown Baseball Association.

The weekend opened with a Friday night program that included the Hall of Fame induction of former Watertown Post 17 coach Mitch Johnson, former Post 17 players Heath Rylance and Spencer Waite and the 1931 Watertown American Legion baseball team ­— the only state Legion championship team in Watertown history.

Watertown Post 17 and the Post 17 Junior Legion team concluded the weekend with home games against Rapid City Post 320 teams.

"Telling our story is what the Hall of Fame weekend is all about," said Watertown Post 17 head coach Ryan Neale. "We're telling our story, not Rapid's, not Sioux Falls, not Brookings. A lot of our kids here don't know about Mitch, Heath, Spencer and others we inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.

"We're trying to get kids excited to learn, myself included, about the history of Watertown baseball and how we can improve. The baseball community has really bought into it and it's been a great thing for our association. It's really about about those individuals and what they have done. They need to be honored."

Here's some early takeaways for Post 17, which is off to a 4-8 start after splitting with Rapid City Post 320 Stars on Saturday.

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Watertown won the opener 9-5 with three hits from Ryan Roby, a two-run homer from Jerod Cyrus, a double and single and three RBIs from Jack Heesch and strong pitching from Jackson Maag. Braedon Zaug hit a 3-run homer for Watertown in a 13-5 loss in the second game.

The pitching has been good

"It all starts with our starting pitching which, for the most part, has been a surprise," said Neale, whose squad lost of number of top pitchers to graduation and also has played most of the early season without one of the top returning pitchers (Andrew Czech) due to injury.

"Our starting pitching has kept us in most of the games and that's something we've needed as this young team tries to get comfortable playing at the varsity level."

Plenty of room for improvement

Post 17 not only lost some talented pitchers to graduation, but also is adjusting offensively with a number of new faces in the lineup.

Neale feels the team has yet to fully take advantage of its speed and that the team's hitting will improve as the season kicks into full gear heading into June.

"We're hoping that one of our strengths is going to be our speed, but getting that speed on base has been a challenge at times early in the season, " said Neale. "As the season progresses, we should be able to get some more consistent looks at the plate.''

How about the other WBA teams?

Don't sleep on the Post 17 Junior Legion, which includes a number of players who won state Class A U13 and U14 baseball championships the past two summers. Watertown improved to 7-3 with 8-5 and 5-2 wins over the Rapid City Post 320 Shooters on Saturday.

Hayden Ries, Austin Johnson and Nash Berg each had two hits and Talan Jurgens earned the win on the mound in the opener. Kaden Rylance had two hits and drove in two runs and Ries went the distance for the complete-game win in the nightcap.

The WBA's Red Sox (U16), Black Sox (U14), Grey Sox (U13) and White Sox (U13-14) have either started or will soon kick off their seasons.

This article originally appeared on Watertown Public Opinion: Where does Post 17's Legion team stand after Watertown Baseball Association's Hall of Fame weekend?