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Let's be honest, nobody is expecting the Fleetwood Sr. American Legion baseball team to win the Schuylkill-Berks League this year. They have just four returning players from last year's team so there will not be a lot of experience on the team.
But there is a lot to look forward to. The Fleetwood High School team is coming off a season in which they won the Berks League championship. So not only do they have the talent to improve over the past couple of seasons, they will have kids who know how to win.
"This season we are looking to be competitive," said Fleetwood Legion Head Coach Mark Dietrich. "The last couple of years have not been what we had hoped for. This year's county championship at high school has raised expectations for everyone, including the players. The players understand what it takes to win - The hard work and dedication to always wanting to get better.
Gone from last year's team are some big bats. So offensively, the younger guys will have to mature quickly and find ways to score some runs. But they do have some talent on the pitching staff which Coach Dietrich is hoping came keep his team in the game while the offense grinds out some runs.
Micah Storms will be one of those key pitchers for the Tigers. When he is not on the mound, he will be the team's starting second baseman.
"Micah will be one of the team leaders for us this year," said Coach Dietrich. "Micah brings solid defense, good offense and will be one of our key pitchers. Most importantly, Micah brings experience, a good work ethic and leadership."
Another key component to the pitching staff will be Clay Wiedemoyer, who will also start at first base when not pitching. Coach Dietrich is hoping that Wiedemoyer continues his high school season.
"Clay really came into his own during the high school season. I expected Clay to be our secret weapon going into this season. After the success Clay had during high school, everybody now knows who he is and what he brings to our club. Clay has a strong arm, good bat and an excellent work ethic."
Justin Dantas will be the third starting pitcher for the Tigers, or spend his time in right field.
"Justin is an athlete who reads the ball well," said Dietrich. "If you can play right field at Fleetwood ,you can play anywhere. Justin is a quiet kid that does everything you ask of him."
Also coming back will be Brandon Koharcheck who will move from center field to shortstop this season. At shortstop, he will replace Devin Wenzel who was one of Fleetwood's top players last year. Brandon has the capability to be a star in this league.
"Brandon has worked to become one of the top legion baseball players in the Schuylkill-Berks League," said Coach Dietrich. "He is a real competitor and is a five-tool player.
"Brandon also will be looked upon as one of the team leaders and he is more than ready to fill the role. I don't know if there is a better middle infield in our league than Micah and Brandon, and there are some good ones."
Since Schuylkill Valley has decided not to field a team this season, the players they do have have been dispersed to other teams. Fleetwood got two of them - Jared Chelius and Kyle Mazur. It didn't take Dietrich long to realize that he liked these two kids.
"Jared and Kyle have shown us early that they have a love for the game and have been working hard. Team chemistry is going to be important for us and our guys have really accepted them into our program. Jared in the early going brings a solid glove to the team and also has shown some pop in his bat. Jared will most likely play in the outfield, but could also fill in at shortstop. Jared most likely will also see time on the mound."
Kyle has been playing at third base, but could also see time at other positions in the infield and even pitch some. He looks solid defensively and also has a good stick.
Other key players on the team are Ryan Steward, Joel Snyder and Christian Schwenig.
Steward is a utility infielder who will be counted on for his good defense.
SNyder will move from right field to center this season. He has decent speed and is strong defensively. He will be counted on though to contribute to the offense as well.
Schwenig will see time in the outfield and the pitcher's mound.
Rounding out the roster will be Cody Wolf, Ken Zuber, Josh Conrath and Mason Dugay. Wolf will get the first shot at being the starting catcher, while Fisher will fill in at first base with Weidemoyer is pitching. Fisher may also get some time on the mound as well.
"Our goal this year is to compete and to continue to build team chemistry," said Dietrich. "A lot of the players have never played together and it is important that we gel together as a team.
"In order to be successful this year, we'll need to step outside of our comfort zone as a team. We'll need to play fundamental and situational baseball. When the situation calls for a bunt, we are not going to be able to rely on the long ball like we did in the past."
That will be the biggest challenge this team has in 2012. They do not have the power they did in 2011. That means the younger players are going have to surprise a few people and do some serious hitting this season in order for the Tigers to win.
"There will definitely be some bumps in the road," said Dietrich. "As a team, and to be successful, we may need to rely more on playing small ball.
"We may struggle this year, but you couldn't have a better group of players to go to battle with."