Brunner Invitational Legion Baseball.

Milan Post 569 and Moline Post 246 battle at the Brunner Invitational earlier this month. Today, the District 14 tournament begins with both teams opening their action on Thursday.


FYI: Both Milan and East Moline advanced to last year's 3rd Division Tournament, with the former squad going on to make its first appearance at the Legion State Tournament. ... Among the opening matchups, Milan and Moline have met twice this summer, with Milan winning both times, including a 6-4 win for the Leo Brunner Invitational title. Rock Island swept an early-season doubleheader from Monmouth; East Moline split a pair with both Monmouth and Rock Island.

Milan (21-8): Post 569 is a veritable all-star team of area players, including several with a year of college baseball under their best, such as third baseman Jaden Dellitt (Mercer County, Augustana) and Monmouth College's duo of Justin Bost (Rockridge) and A.J. Hatlestad (Sherrard). The team is deep in terms of pitching with the likes of Bost, the MerCo duo of Jake Reusch and Cade Sharp, Sherrard's Kyle Yeater and Orion's Seth West.

"In my four years (coaching Post 569), this is the most competitive District I've seen," said Milan head coach Nick Basala. "We've got to bring our `A' game. We've got a lot of veteran guys, and they've talked to our younger guys about handling situations like this. We're ready to come out and play some good baseball."

Moline (23-9-1): Along the road to the postseason, Post 246 has turned in runner-up finishes both at its own Brunner Invite and at this past weekend's Post 499 Wood Bat Invitational in the Kansas City area. Outfielder and lead-off man Noah Sebben anchors a deep lineup that includes such standouts as first baseman Aiden Michna, shortstop Brody Harding and third baseman Michael Conner. Anchoring the pitching is the quartet of Devon Breiholz, Jake Nitzel, Will McLaughlin and Landon Thiele.

"We've got the pitching pretty much lined up, and everyone's fully rested going into Thursday," said Post 246 coach Jim Zacharewicz, who recently earned his 500th career victory. "I thought we played great this weekend, having the opportunity to get a bunch of games lined up before the postseason started."

East Moline (10-9): Having to replace several key performers from last year's 3rd Division qualifiers, Post 227 has coalesced around the veteran nucleus of outfielder/pitcher Lucas DeLaere, pitcher Noah Jansen, shortstop Zach Markin and pitcher/utility man Cole Stevens. Hard-hitting first baseman Tyler Runkle has anchored the East Moline batting order, supported by second baseman Daniel Ruiz.

"Those guys were a part of it last year with some of the older guys who were returning (for the 2018 season)," said Post 227 coach Mike Meyers. "We're obviously a little younger this year, so hopefully the guys have learned what it takes and how to win baseball games in the postseason."

Rock Island (14-8-1): Post 200's pitching staff took a bit of a hit with injuries to Spencer Hasselroth and Alec Straw, but head coach T.J. Hoffman looks to the stalwart trio of Jono Berry, Carson James and Collin Snyder, with Anthony Barrios also turning in solid mound work. James has also been a strong contributor at the plate, alongside Brendan Hird and Chase VanDerGinst.

"We're feeling good, we're playing decent ball right now," said Hoffman. "(Today) will be different; Monmouth was missing a few of their guys that weekend. Since then, everyone's progressed. It's the old cliche about win and advance. You don't want to fall into the losers' bracket right off; it's a long road back."

Monmouth (9-14): Augmenting Post 136's roster are several players from United's 1A regional-finalist team, including third baseman Avery Leffler, pitcher Nolan Leffler and outfielder Brannock McVey. The duo of Nick Corman and Addison Fletcher strengthens the pitching staff, with Fletcher also a strong contributor at the plate.


FYI: Consisting of several Lincoln Trail Conference standouts, Oneida Post 727 (20-20) is looking to advance to the 3rd Division Tournament for the third consecutive season, and looks to go beyond after a 2-1 loss to Milan in last year's Division title game in Peoria.

"That's on the guys' minds a lot," said Oneida coach James Clark. "Having that experience and being so close, that lights a fire underneath them. They want to come out, play hard and see what happens."

A hard-hitting lineup led by recent United graduate Adam Johnson is key to Post 727's postseason hopes, along with a deep pitching staff that includes 2019 Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Area Player of the Year and recent Cambridge graduate Cole Franks.