Moline winning the Legion state title over the weekend again showed the strength of Illinois Quad-Cities baseball, Chris Lemon said.|
However, the Alleman coach warned precisely because of Post 246's success, that power may not translate into tonight's ninth annual Iowa-Illinois Senior All-Star Classic at Modern Woodmen Park.
Admission is $5 for the twinbill, with games scheduled to start at 5 and 7 p.m. Concession are available.
"I've just lost five kids to the Legion," Lemon said with a laugh. "At least the (position players) I have left are excited knowing they're going to play both games of a doubleheader."
Lemon's Illinois squad boasts only 10 position players and four pitchers because of Moline Post 246's second state title in three seasons.
Because of that success, unable to play in tonight's twinbill are Moline High's Tim Wages, Cameron Kiel, Jake Frost and Parker Jasper.
Also missing? The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus' reigning Metro Player of the Year, Ryan O'Keeffe, who led Alleman to a second-place Class 2A state finish in June.
"So I've got one kid from Moline, Nick Runco, who was (the Maroons') backup catcher and didn't play Legion, so he should be a little rusty," Lemon said.
"At least most of these other guys were playing (Legion) up until a few weeks ago. I want to compete better than we did last year."
Legion success handicapped Illinois the last two years, too, with Rock Island reaching the Great Lakes Regional last season, and Moline qualifying for the Legion World Series in 2010.
Iowa's also benefited from a late July end to its prep season, winning 11 of the 15 games contested in the cross-river affair.
Iowa swept the Classic last season, 6-3 and 17-7, the latter in six innings.
Lemon, who became Alleman's head coach again last summer, also was forced to piece together the Illinois lineup at the last minute.
"Just after I was re-hired, two days before the game, I got a call from (event coordinator) Joe Vaccaro (the Bettendorf assistant coach)," said Lemon, who also coached Alleman from 2003-08.
"Nobody had put a roster together from our side, so I made it my problem, even though I didn't really know the kids. The first time I met (Moline's) Seth Fuller was a couple of minutes before game time. I asked him, 'Who are you?' He said, 'I'm the Player of the Year.' And I said, 'Get warmed up. You're pitching.'"
This time, Lemon has a squad mainly made up of the region's small-school stars.
Included are the Sherrard foursome of All-Area performers Mike Baugh, Bryce Frenell, Jake Friichtenicht and Trace Gingerich, the latter this paper's Area Player of the Year.
All-Area performers from Rockridge (Cody Hinson and Sage Wetteland) and Orion (Kyle Hoffman) are on Team Illinois, too, along with Macomb's Matt Lawver and Rock Falls' Brett Chappelle.
Joining Runco from the Metro schools are United Township's John Dokolas and a trio from Lemon's Alleman program — Blake Newberg, Matt Schissel and John Barrett.
"Initially, I'd said, let's hit 10 players in each game, because we both had a bunch of kids. But now, that's our whole lineup," Lemon said, with Dokolas, Hinson, Schissel and Frenell handling mound duties.
"On the bright side, (Vaccaro) said the best players in their (Mississippi Athletic) Conference are underclassmen, so maybe we won't miss those (Moline) Legion guys."
Win, lose or draw, Lemon said, the twinbill should serve as a nice last-blast for the seniors on both sides of the river.
"I've been asked before why I do this," Lemon said. "For one, I get to coach my Alleman kids one last time. I also get to coach the kids we've been competing with for so long. It's also nice to measure yourself against the kids from the other side (of the river).
"But I'd like us to win, too, and maybe earn back some bragging rights for our state."
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