Coming off a successful high school baseball season, expectations were already high for the American Legion baseball season. Post 53 will boast nearly everybody from their 18-win season as Cowboys and joining them are a trio of college students who were All-Conference in last year’s Legion campaign.
Tommy Hiedeman, Andrew Kram and Mitch Porter will surely bolster the roster, but it’s tricky to get them all in the lineup with a team that ended their season on a roll.
“It’s going to be interesting how to make this all work in our lineup. We had a really good spring and you don’t want to disrupt what we have going, but these were probably the three best players we had last year,” Breckenridge coach Kevin Hiedeman said. “They led us in a lot of categories and we want to add to what we did this spring with these three guys. It’ll be a little bit of a work in progress to get started here. They’re starting a little behind from where these high schoolers are, but it’s going to be a fun summer if we can piece it together. These guys should add a ton to what we’re already doing.”
Along with all being strong at the plate and in the field, each of the three will help in the pitching department. Their return doubles the amount of pitchers Breck can look to.
“That’s the one thing you need in Legion. We play a lot of games in not very many days,” Coach Hiedeman said. “The interesting thing about the Legion season is the pitch count is a lot more strict.”
The first game for Post 53 is a Wednesday, June 12 road battle against Hawley, Minnesota.
Hiedeman is returning from Concordia College where he’s a member of the Cobbers football team. He’s already taken some of the rust off on the diamond by participating on an amateur baseball team with his brothers in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
The Swiss Army knife of the returning players, Hiedeman can be used in a variety of spots. His main positions would either be shortstop or second baseman. The super senior will team up in the middle infield with Hunter Feigum, who is coming off a stellar season at shortstop.
“Tommy’s kind of that versatile kid who can kind of play anywhere. He’ll probably go back to short,” Coach Hiedeman said. “We might switch off between Hunter and Tommy with who plays second and who plays short. We’ll kind of see how that works out.”
Hiedeman can also fill in at catcher if called upon. Having two quality catchers on a team is a luxury not a lot of high school teams have.
“It’ll be nice if Tommy can catch, because this past high school season there were two or three games where Jack Aigner’s arm was just tired,” Coach Hiedeman said. “Having that option to put Tommy behind the plate is also a big benefit for us.”
The versatile athlete will also be called upon to pitch. He was their No. 3 guy in the rotation last season.
Hiedeman also batted in the top two spots in the order all last year and finished with one of the best batting averages on the team. His speed on the base adds to an already speedy Breckenridge squad.
The lone returning player who wasn’t participating in a college sport, Kram was the leadoff hitter most of his career in Breckenridge. Like any good top-of-the-order batter, he hits efficiently and is a speed demon on the bags.
His speed is also utilized in the outfield, but he’s spent a fair share of time as a first baseman as well.
“The thing about Andrew is we already had a really strong outfield in the high school season anchored by Jeremy Stack in center. Of course Hayden ran extremely well, but Andrew also can run,” Coach Hiedeman said. “Having that additional speed in the outfield is a big plus and he catches everything. This is one of the better outfields we’ve ever had.”
Like the other two returning college players, Kram adds another arm to the pitching staff.
“(Kram’s) the only left-hander we have in the lineup,” Coach Hiedeman said. “He didn’t pitch as much last year and started the high school season with some arm troubles, but man, at the end of the year he pitched great. We’re hoping that Andrew can start this season where he left last season off.”
Porter adds another outfielder to the mix. Porter, Stack and Brayden Wahl will most likely cover the outfield while Kram plays first primarily.
Porter was the cleanup hitter for a large part of his senior year with plenty of pop to his bat. The Post 53 vet, just like his fellow two returning players, had one of the best batting averages on last season’s team.
The most crucial part of Porter’s return is his pitching prowess. Porter and Wes Johnson were the two go-to guys on the mound last year and a year of college baseball at M-State helped him continue to improve his craft.
“(Porter) throws hard, has a great curveball, has great control and we were already pretty strong with our pitching staff coming in with Jake (Wendorff), Connor (Twidwell) and Carter (Haugen) doing a great job this spring,” Coach Hiedeman said.