With low numbers on the horizon for both the Tea and Harrisburg Legion summer ball teams, the two towns decided to co-op for the 2018 summer baseball season and will play under the Harrisburg Legion name.
“Harrisburg had a bunch of graduating seniors last year and was worried about numbers for this summer,” said Jay Wange, head coach of the Harrisburg Legion ball team. “John [Ratzloff] reached out to Tea to see if they were interested.”
Tea was. In fact of the 16 players on the roster eight of them are from Tea. They include Nick Aeilts, Nick Abel, Cole Barthel, Alec Goldammer, Tom Fritz, Riley Schnider, Troy Ljunggren, and Dillon Cuppy.
Wange serves as the Activities Director for Adrian, MN and was approached by Ratzloff earlier in the year to serve as head coach; last summer he served as assistant to the Harrisburg Legion.
Wange began coaching summer ball 28 years ago when he served as Luverne’s Legion coach for seven years. He then married and had children but continued to coach baseball everywhere they moved for their son, who has been diagnosed deaf and autistic.
Wange found success coaching in Sioux Falls, serving as coach of the 15-16 Sioux Falls West team, 15-16 Central team and the 15-16 East team. Wange helped lead these teams to two State titles and one runner-up honor.
Wange’s passion for coaching is evident and he is excited for this summer season.
“That’s the nice thing about this summer,” he said. “With so many seniors graduating last year, I’m pretty sure our opponents are not thinking too highly about us this summer.”
However, Wange feels that will be their mistake.
“After a few winter workouts and these first summer practices, we are extremely excited,” said Wange. “I’m passionate about pitching, especially focusing on switching speeds and locations. Offensively, growing up a Twins’ fan I play small ball—a ton of bunting, stealing, hitting and running, etc. Those two factors alone make me feel we should be competitive and exciting to watch every night out.”
Wange will be assisted this year by Tea’s Kurt Zabel.
New to the Legion games this year will be two seven-inning games played each night instead of just one nine-inning game. Wange is excited for the change and feels he will be able to give everyone a chance to start and/or play in the majority of games.
The team began their season last Friday, June 1 taking on Sioux Falls East. Sioux Falls East was victorious in both games, winning 6-0 in game one and 14-1 in game two. Harrisburg took on Mitchell on June 5 losing both games on walk offs, 2-1 and 11-10. Harrisburg will be in Yankton on Friday, June 8 where they will face off against Yankton at 10:30 a.m. and South Sioux City at 12:35 p.m. The team will still be in Yankton on Saturday, June 9, taking on Lincoln Southeast at 11:45 a.m. and Springfield Plattview at 3 p.m.
The Harrisburg Legion travels to Watertown on Tuesday, June 12 for a 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. game. They will take on Luverne on Wednesday, June 13 at Legion Park in Harrisburg at 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.