Coach Wayland McKague said this year’s American Legion baseball season was fun.
“This Rhineland Legion team made it to Zone play and we won some things—a regular season championship and a tournament championship in the 9th District—so it’s a pretty big deal,” said the coach.
He said this was a solid team, talent wise, and coming up through the grades playing together in the bigger games helped the team gel. He recognized the talent that played for the team that came from the region.
“We picked up two players from Belle this year that are both solid ball players to fill out our roster,” he said.
Jefferson City Post 5 AA was the biggest, most talented team Rhineland faced this summer, but they played some teams from sizable towns such as Hannibal (Rhineland won 3 out of 4 games) and Washington (Rhineland won 4 out of 5).
One of the biggest differences between American Legion and high school playoffs is wooden bats are banned in American Legion Zone play.
“[With a wooden bat] you actually have to hit the ball well to get a good hit—you have to square it up,” said Coach McKague. “There’s not a lot of cheap hits. “With an aluminum bat you can hit above the grip and bloop it over the second baseman’s head, where you’d probably break a wooden bat.”
He feels wooden bats lend more authenticity to the game. When asked by the Advertiser-Courier about hitting this year, Coach McKague said, “At times we struggled to get the timely hits we needed against Jeff City.” “We had bases loaded and nobody out in the first two innings and ended up with one run.”
At other times, the Rhineland bats were hot. While pitching talent against some of the better teams has a definite effect, the coach said cold bats are sometimes the nature of the game.
“Something we can always improve on is not striking out at the plate,” he added. “Keeping the ball in play is huge in baseball, especially at the high school and Legion level.”
The batting team expects the fielding team to make errors and that can’t be done unless batters are connecting.
“At times we did that well, and other times we didn’t,” he responded.
The Rhineland team’s pitching was solid this year, striking out batters, with the team fielding well during those batting lulls. Trent Anderson, Ethan Towery, Colten Robinson and Chase McKague all threw good games this year.
“Trent’s always solid being a strong left-handed pitcher,” said the coach. “Chase came a long ways pitching this summer and we’ll be looking for big things next year during the high school season. Ethan is always going to come in and throw strikes for us and get people out. Colten was a nice addition (from Belle, Mo.) this year, throwing strikes, doesn’t walk people and makes them earn their way on base. It was also nice to get Cameron Michel back out there after his injury and he got to throw a little bit.”
The Belle boys adjusted well according to the coach and it was an opportunity to play competitively this summer and make some new friends.
“In high school [play], I’ll root for these guys and the Belle team every game, unless they’re playing us.”