On the verge
The Marshfield Blue Devils Legion baseball team sets a club record for winning percentage as the group prepares for postseason play
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — A year after finishing second at the state tournament and earning a berth in the Great Lakes regional, the Marshfield Clinic Post 54 American Legion baseball senior team is putting together one of its best seasons ever.
Following Tuesday’s loss to Eau Claire, Marshfield stood at 19-5 heading into its final two regular-season games at Stevens Point on Wednesday and at Wausau on Thursday. The Blue Devils lost to Stevens Point and then beat Wausau to close the year at 20-6, recording their fifth-straight 20-win season, and their winning percentage of .769 bested the club record of .750 that was set in 2003 when Marshfield finished 30-10.
The Blue Devils boast a deep roster that has 10 of its 19 players from outside the two Marshfield high schools.
Spencer’s Bobby Pilz and Mitch Susa; Neillsville’s Nate McDonald, Neal Matson, Sam Neville, and Nolan Matson; Pittsville’s Nathan Dupee; Athens’ Shane Coker; and Greenwood’s Booker Bredlau and Logan Johnson have joined with a group of two Columbus Catholic and seven Marshfield High School players to create a roster robust in talent and, probably most importantly, pitching.
“Some of these guys were playing on tournament teams, some of the kids from Neillsville, especially,” Marshfield coach John Southworth said. “It’s important for Legion baseball to get as many kids within your area to be competitive. The Marshfield Post sponsors the team, but if you’re going to be competitive in this league (Wisconsin Valley Legion League), you better get every good kid from the area that you live.”
For all of the players not from Marshfield High School, the competition the Blue Devils face is a definite step up from the Division 3 or 4 teams they are used to playing against during the high school season. However, it obviously has not fazed those players given the success the team has had the past two seasons with similar rosters.
“They are all competitive, and some have really excelled,” Southworth said. “If you get the best players from each community, most of the kids can compete at this level. If they can’t, they get up to speed in a hurry. They are all pretty good athletes.”
Last year, with Plover hosting the state tournament, two teams from the regional were given spots at state. Marshfield finished second to Plover in the regional and then placed second at the state tournament to Plover again to advance to the Great Lakes national regional.
This summer only the winning team from the regional will grab a spot in the state tournament field. Marshfield will begin play in the Class AAA regional, which will be held at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point, on Tuesday against Wisconsin Rapids. The tournament runs through July 24 with the winner advancing to the state tournament at Watertown on July 28-31.
With Pilz, Susa, Jeremy Binder, Jack Donahue, and Jake Brueggen providing the Blue Devils with a long line of starting pitching, Marshfield already has a leg up on a number of teams heading into the postseason.
“A lot of that regional boils down to how deep you are pitching, if you can stick around,” Southworth said. “The first games are usually low scoring because teams are throwing their better pitchers.
“You hopefully have to win your earlier games, and it’s a dogfight after that. In all honesty Plover’s pitching is probably equal to last year, but they lost some games this year. They’re beatable. We’ll just see what happens.”
Class AAA Senior Legion Regional schedule
July 21-24, at Bukolt Park, Stevens Point
Tuesday, July 21
- D.C. Everest vs. Plover, 1:30 p.m.
- Marshfield vs. Wisconsin Rapids, 4:30 p.m.
- Wausau vs. Stevens Point, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 22
- Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 1:30 p.m.
- Winner Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, 4 p.m.
- Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7:30 p.m.
*Tournament continues with three games July 23 and championship-round games on July 24.