Team features players from Waterford, Burlington, East Troy
By Chris Bennett
The Waterford Senior Legion baseball team will not change its game for the Wisconsin American Legion Class AAA State Tournament.
Waterford is participating in the tournament, which started Wednesday and continues through Sunday, at Plover. Plover is 15 miles northeast of Wisconsin Rapids and about three hours from Waterford.
Waterford will stick with what worked in the regular season and focus on what it can control.
“What we’ve preached all year is the one thing we can control is effort,” Coach John Todryk said. “You can’t control the other team, how bad the umps are or what breaks we don’t get. What we can control is effort.
“That’s the mentality we’ll take into the state tournament.”
Waterford (16-7) played the Madison Impact (11-10) at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the double elimination tournament.
If Waterford won, they played either Oshkosh (27-2) or Marshfield (21-10) Thursday. The championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. A complete schedule is available at http://baseball.departmentapps.org/index.php?id=98#class_aaa.
Todryk, in his eighth season as Waterford’s coach, said advancing to the state tournament served as a team goal all season. Jimmy Merlo is the team’s assistant coach. The team is sponsored by the American Legion’s Essman-Schroeder Post No. 20 in Waterford.
“It’s exciting for the kids,” Todryk said. “I don’t know how you describe it. I’m happy for the kids. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Speaking from memory, Todryk said this is the first time a Senior Legion team from Waterford has advanced to state in more than a decade.
According to Legion rules, the players on the Waterford team must be born after January 1, 1995. Players who wish to participate born in 1995 or 1996 must play Senior Legion baseball.
Most of the team’s players attend Waterford High School. Todryk said a few players from Burlington and East Troy also participate.
Mark Wallace, the All-Area player of the year, is the team’s top pitcher. He graduated from Burlington in June.
Another Demon on the squad is pitcher Austin Baker. The left-hander was a key piece of Burlington’s success.
With Wallace, Baker and Waterford’s Dylan Malecki, the Waterford Senior Legion boasts three solid starting pitchers.
The Wolverines advanced to state after winning four of five games in the Region 7 Tournament at Genoa City July 23-27. Waterford opened on July 24 with a 9-3 loss to Janesville.
“We didn’t do some of the little things right,” Todryk said, adding that he thought Waterford might have played nervous.
On July 25, Waterford won by forfeit over the Kenosha Merchants. Todryk said Waterford fielded nine players, threw one pitch and the game was declared a forfeit. Todryk said he did not know why the Merchants forfeited.
Waterford’s 5-0 victory July 25 eliminated Beloit from the tournament, and the team exacted a measure of vengeance July 26 with a 9-4 win against Janesville.
In the regional final July 27 against Genoa City, Todryk said he didn’t relax until the game ended. Waterford won 19-9 and advanced to state.
“There was never really a point where I felt we were going to win it, until we scored the 10th run for the slaughter rule,” Todryk said. “It was a little bit of a see-saw battle. The one thing about that game is we just pounded the ball. Every inning, we scored a run.”
If Waterford wins the state tournament, the team will play in the Great Lakes Regional Tournament Aug. 7 through 11 in Terre Haute, Ind. against teams from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
If Waterford wins in Terre Haute, the team advances to the American Legion World Series Aug. 14 through 19 in Shelby, N.C.
Todryk said Waterford is a “scrappy, hard-nosed baseball team” that relied on pitching and defense during the regular season, and enjoyed a resurgence of offense in the regional tournament.
“When we got to the regional, our hitting was fantastic, our pitching was great and our defense got even better,” Todryk said.
Todryk said he and the team are heading into the state tournament with no information about their opponents, but are not concerned.
“We know absolutely nothing,” Todryk said. “It’s probably better, because the mentality that this team has had all year is it’s not about who we play, but how we play.”
Nate Lauer – Pitcher
Jack Ritzman – Outfield
Mark Wallace – Pitcher
Trace Hunsucker – Outfield
Ross Gunderson – Infield
Ryan Moritz – Pitcher
Josh Kurth – Outfield
Ben Folger – Infield
Austin Baker – Pitcher
Dylan Malecki – Pitcher
Nick Ruffalo – Catcher
Tyler Terrian – Catcher
Ryan Borchardt – Pitcher
Michael Schmidt – Infield
Tony Ray – Pitcher
Matt Wezyk – Infield