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Post 15 needs more improvement after 2009 season

Legion Post 15 second baseman Aaron Gnoinsky attempts to pick up a grounder during a home game this past season at Washington Ballpark.

There was a little bit of Zen that went into the Detroit Lakes Post 15 baseball team's 2009 season.

The DL squad finished the season with a 13-21 record, but progress was made despite the unspectacular record.

There are many things that go into the game of baseball, and it's the little things that add up to improving on that game.

Learning how to swing better -- not harder -- at the plate; pitching effectively by using location, location, location; and concentrating on defense were all things which DL will need to improve on in the future, according to Post 15 head coach Mitch McLeod.

"They need to understand the game better to improve," McLeod said. "Things like hitting your cutoff on defense and how to take a secondary lead when on the bases.

"The first thing they need to do is understand the game better and improve on their fundamentals."

Consistency was lacking for Post 15 throughout the long 34-game season. But a slow start eventually did lead to a two-week period where the DL squad split with the eventual two teams that were in the District championship game, an upset and shutout of the No. 6 state ranked Excelsior team and fell just one game shy of advancing out of pool play in the 48-team Gopher Classic.

But the slope became slippery again, as Post 15 dived back down into a valley by committing 10 errors in two District playoff games to cut a potential tournament run short.

"We were not consistent throughout the season," McLeod said.

Of the three facets of the game, pitching was DL's most solid unit. Nick Polejewski came on like wild horses in his final four starts.

It started with an impressive complete-game victory over Fergus Falls, and continued into the Gopher Classic, where he shut out Excelsior with a three-hitter.

Polejewski continued his brilliant pitching by tossing a two-hit shutout on Rosetown during the Water Carnival Tournament. He ended with a solid game against Perham, but four DL errors led to three unearned runs in the loss to Perham.

"Since Fergus Falls, Nick was phenomenal," McLeod said. "He had four outstanding outings, including the playoffs."

Brock Johnson was DL's ace and continued to improve his slider, which led to a bevy of strikeouts, while Alex Guetter tossed a couple of good games, along with Kyle Muckenhirn.

"Overall, we had some great pitching performances, but they all had some bad games, as well," McLeod said. "They just need to learn there are three elements to pitching: location, velocity and movement -- in that order."

Due to a very competitive schedule, DL faced some superior pitching, which led to a respectable team batting average of .276.

Third baseman Connor McLeod led the way with a .367 average, while infielder T.J. Manning recorded a .348 average.

Catcher Doug Dickey was DL's third and final batter over the .300 mark with a .344 average.

But learning the simple rule of swinging well, not hard, needs to be improved on, McLeod said.

"Instead of going up there saying 'I need a hit, I need a hit,' they should be focusing on 'Let's get a good swing on the pitch,'" the DL coach explained. "We were inconsistent with our batting and that was a bit disappointing. They were swinging so hard, instead of swinging better."

The defense was usually the determining factor in games. If the defense swallowed up grounders and pop flies, it usually meant a win. But if the pendulum swung the other way, losses would ensue.

One challenge McLeod had was playing players out of position in the infield.

The outfield was a strength, with speedy fielders Adam Thielen and Max Knoll covering a lot of turf.

But the infield had its moments of indecision, which led to costly errors.

"I believe defense more than anything is about concentration," McLeod said. "We lost our focus too many times. We had a plethora of outfielders and first basemen, but not a lot of guys who could consistently play the infield."

Dickey held down the catching duties well by calling good games for his pitchers and playing stellar defense. That will change next season, when DL will have to start over at that position after years of having Dickey and Taylor Fuhs man the position.

"Doug understands the game well and he had the ability to call the hitter, not the pitcher," McLeod said.

The Post 15 team will look to have a better season in 2010 with four of their top five hitters back, including Connor McLeod and Manning.

The pitching well could be deep with the potential return of Polejewski (who will be pitching at Northland College this coming year), Johnson, Guetter and 2009 starter Ben Lindquist.

"I'm excited about next year; we do lose a lot of good players, but we have some good young kids coming up and our pitching should be pretty good," McLeod said. "It's nice to have Brock Johnson and our two top hitters back to start with.

"I think we'll be solid at the plate and our outfield will be good. We just need some guys to come up and play big in the infield."

Post 15 results

The 2009 Detroit Lakes Post 15 season stats -- Record: 13-21.

Season stats (at bats-runs-hits-RBI-avg): Logan Baker 26-5-4-4-.154; Max Bentley 31-8-7-8-.226; Doug Dickey 96-25-33-23-.344; Andy Fondrick 17-0-2-1-.118; Aaron Gnoinsky 61-18-17-9-.279; Alex Guetter 4-0-0-1-.000; Aaron Haugo 21-1-5-2-.238; Brandon Johnson 71-11-18-14-.254; Brock Johnson 62-10-18-15-.290; Max Knoll 61-14-13-5-.213; Ben Lindquist 5-1-2-1-.400; T.J. Manning 46-3-16-14-.348; Connor McLeod 90-24-33-19-.367; Kyle Muckenhirn 38-4-10-3-.263; Reed Oistad 104-22-24-20-.231; Andy Pedersen 55-13-16-7-.291; Nick Polejewski 35-6-8-6-.229; Adam Thielen 76-19-22-10-.289. Team: 899-184-248-162-.276.