Though their season started off shakier than expected, the American Legion Post 28 Warriors seem to have grounded themselves in a comfortable stance as the team approaches its season midpoint. Coming off back-to-back wins against the Milford Red Sox of Post 3, the 6-7 Warriors are showing stability as they improve to 4-3 in the Southern Division.
“We’re pretty much on a roll now,” said team manager Mike Casale. “We just really want to stay on top with our division play. Those are the important ones. And we’ve got a good group of young ballplayers.”
On Tuesday, July 1, the Warriors triumphed over the rival Red Sox, 10-2, behind the confident arm of pitcher Trevor Abbott, who gave up only one earned run. He threw a seven-inning six-hitter, chalking up seven strikeouts in the victory.
Casale’s son, Mike Casale Jr., finished 3-3 at the plate with impressive swinging throughout the lineup. Virtually the entire team has played together in leagues and high school in the past, and it was just a matter of time before everyone worked together.
“There’s a lot of chemistry with these guys,” said the elder Casale. “A good number of them are all-conference and all-state players, and when they’re together, they’re tough to beat.”
In all, 11 athletes on the roster hail from Indian River High School and a team that captured its conference for the fourth consecutive year before falling to Dickinson in the quarterfinals in May.
Casale is pressed to get his roster down to an 18-man requirement, a considerably lower count than his current 24-man lineup.
“It’s not easy to turn kids away,” said Casale, who even had to forfeit keeping his youngest son on the team. “There’s so much talent here, but you have to get it down to a cut.”
Indian River and Sussex Central high schools have contributed most of the players, while Casale’s eldest son returned to the Legion team from Wesley and second baseman C.J. Bell comes back from Delaware State University for the summer.
Many of the players wrapped up their high school careers this year, while others, such as Tyler Dean and Jamie Jorman, contribute talent as some of the youngest on the team.
“We’ve got so much talent and experience on the team, and the ages run up and down,” said Casale. “[Jamie] is quite an athlete. We’re going to be hearing a lot from him soon in a number of sports.”
Casale has been working with the Legion team for the past three years and stepped up this year as manager, flip-flopping with former manager Jodi Sweetman, who kept tabs on the Indian River team in years past.
“We just switched it up this year,” said Casale. “It’s great when you work with an awesome group of guys like these.”
But, unlike high-school seasons, Legion ball comes with extra tolls.
“There’s a bunch of things you have to contend with,” he added. “From a coach or manager’s perspective, you don’t see these kids every day, and that can be tough. We’re losing five players next year, and most of these guys are getting ready for college. It puts us in a bind later, but it’s nice to have them now. That’s what we want to do — be here for them and give them that opportunity to play and improve their skills.”
Players’ personal schedules in the summer months pose a hindrance along the way. A number of the players will be traveling in the upcoming week, playing in showcases in Georgia, which will test the comfort and the strengths of the rest of the team.
The timing is unfortunate, as the Warriors are entering one of their most trying weeks of the season, with six games in six days — including double-headers against Delaware Post 1 and VFW Post 3420 Christiana on Saturday, July 12, and Sunday, July 13, respectively.
Prior to that, they will square off in division games against the Post 6 Patriots at Seaford on Tuesday, July 8, and Fox Post 2 at Wesley College in Dover on Thursday, July 10. Visit the Web site at www.delegion.org for up-to-date Legion ball results and information through the season.