Hibbing Legion will need to work around depth concerns

HIBBING — Just how deep is the Hibbing American Legion baseball team?

Post 222 manager Adam Schafer would like to be two deep at every position, but a lack of numbers has hurt Hibbing this season.

Schafer could sure use a few more numbers beginning today when Hibbing takes on Osseo at 11:30 a.m., at Red Haddox Field in Bloomington to start the Gopher Classic.

As of now, Post 222, who will have 10 players today, nine players on Saturday and 11 players on Sunday, with the possibility of one more showing up.

Hibbing will need all of the help it can get because Saturday things don’t get any easier.

Post 222 plays Mitchell, S.D., at 9 a.m., then Lakeville South at 11:30 a.m. On Sunday, Hibbing takes on Omaha Skutt, a private school in Nebraska, at 11:30 a.m,., then they close out the tourney against Bloomington Gold at 4:30 p.m.

It’s going to be a long three days of baseball, and with a limited roster, Post 222 will get their fair share of playing time during one of the biggest tournaments in the country.

“I really won’t be able to tinker with the lineup a lot because we don’t have a lot of flexibility with it,” Schafer said. “We’ll have to put players in spots they’re not comfortable with, and we’re going to need everybody to pitch.

“We’ll need an army of pitchers for these five games in three days.”

The majority of mound duty this season has been eaten up by Codieh Powers and Eli Sundquist, but Schafer will need Brody Niskanen, Noah Vinopal, Blace Tomberlin, Ryne Sampson and Hayden Westerberg to step up and fill some innings.

“Those are the veteran guys we’ll rely on,” Schafer said. “We have guys that haven’t pitched a lot of innings, but they will get their chance to pitch here. With the pitch limits, they have to be efficient.

“What will get tough is if we have to use three or four pitchers in one game. That puts a restriction on us. If we can get them to go six or seven innings, we’ll take that. We need every arm we can get in this tournament.”

If Hibbing wants to keep the pitch count down, then Post 222 will have to play solid defensively.

“We’ll be down there facing a lot of good teams,” Schafer said. “In our pool, there is no weak opponent. In order for our pitchers to be efficient, we have to make the simple plays. We can’t be booting the ball around.“If we do that, that will tax our pitchers. We have to help them out. If teams hit the ball, they hit the ball. It is what it is. We can’t give extra outs because these teams will make you pay.”

Scoring runs will also make it easier on the Hibbing pitching staff.

Post 222 was able to do that earlier in the season, but runs have been hard to come by recently.

“At the beginning of the summer, that was our strength,” Schafer said. “We won some higher-scoring game, but when we played Grand Rapids, we had trouble scoring runs. We didn’t get the clutch hits

“It all comes down to getting clutch hits. If we can’t get guys in, it’s a moot point. At the beginning of the summer that was our forte, our strength.”

Playing solid, all-around baseball will be important for Hibbing, especially against the teams they will be facing.

“For a lot of these guys, these will be the best pitchers and best teams they’ve faced up until this point,” Schafer said. “There’s 90-some teams. It’s competitive. In some cases, it will be an eye-opener to see where we’re at as a club.

“It’ll take perfect baseball to win. There’s no weak teams in our pool.

“This will be a good test, a good challenge for ourselves against the best teams in the state and out-of-state. It’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at against teams from around the country.”

No matter how the weekend goes, all Schafer wants to see is improvement in all areas of the game.

“I want us to elevate our play,” he said. “As we inch closer to playoffs, this is a chance to play good teams. It should make us player at a higher level. It’ll force us to play out of our comfort zones.

“Anytime you can elevate your play before playoffs, that’s when you want to be playing your best baseball. As long as we come out of it playing our best baseball of the summer, that’s a positive. We want to be playing fundamentally sound, doing the things we need to do.”

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