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LEGION BASEBALL: Hatton coach tries to pick up where brother left off

Ben Strand is trying to pick up where his older brother left off.

Ben Strand is in his first year as head coach of the Hatton American Legion baseball team. Older brother Christopher had the position the past five seasons, and led Hatton last season to its first Legion state tournament appearance since 1997.

“I’ve told him that it was convenient that he left after the team makes it back to state, and after his three best pitchers are done,” Ben Strand said. “But then he tells me that (his coaching) was part of the talent, too.

“He was here coaching for five years and he did build up a good program. It’s nice to step into a spot where you have a solid program. He left with some talent still here.”

Hatton isn’t in complete rebuilding mode, winning nine of its first 13 games. Returning regulars from last season are Jacob Pladson, Jace Pederson, Tanner Mundahl, John Huus and Jake Bilden. Pederson and Pladson also are returning pitching regulars.

“Jace and Jacob have stepped up and are our top two pitchers now,” Strand said. “They’re pretty solid. They’re smart pitchers, mixing up pitches, hitting their spots and working batters. And we’re solid on defense.”

The defense is anchored up the middle, with Mundahl at second base and Pederson at shortstop. “They can put on a show with their gloves,” Strand said.

The offensive leaders have been Bilden, Mundahl and Muus. Muus has the team’s lone home run in its first 13 games. “We’re mostly line-drive hitters, more contact types,” Strand said.

Agnes starts strong

Missing spring baseball hasn’t hurt Kalton Agnes.

The left-hander graduated from Langdon High School in 2013 and didn’t play college baseball this past season. But Agnes opened the American Legion baseball season with a pair of dominant pitching performances.

Agnes beat Park River 5-2, a complete game in which he allowed only one hit while striking out 13. Agnes lost his next start, going the distance, striking out 11 while giving up just three hits in a 4-2 loss to Thompson.

“Kalton throws hard, with a pretty nasty curveball,” Langdon coach Dylan Crockett said. “And the big thing is he doesn’t throw the ball down the middle of the plate. He has good control. He works the corners of the plate.

“And he’s a lefty, which is a big bonus.”

Langdon has some pitching depth, with Erik Aanerud, Jon Skjervheim and Kade Pengilly also throwing. “They’re all effective,” Crockett said. “They all can keep us in the game. Kalton is the one who is a big strikeout pitcher.

“It was a big boost getting him back. We’re short on guys. He comes in and gives us an ace pitcher. Plus he’s a leadoff batter who can hit and get on base a lot.”

Road Warriors

Two years ago, Mayville-Portland didn’t have an American Legion baseball team due to lack of participation numbers. The team returned last season; now it’s the field that is missing.

Due to work on the road and the parking lot at Scott Berry Field on the Mayville State campus, only three of the 16 dates on the schedule will be played at home.

“The field is OK,” May-Port coach Rick Torgeson said. “But it’s hard to get to it. There is a lot of working going on up on campus. The road to the field is all torn up.

“It’s just easier to play on the road than getting to the field. And I don’t think it will hurt our team being on the road.”

Mayville-Portland isn’t having numbers issues with 14 players on its roster, up three from last season. After having so few players just two summers ago, “that’s pretty good progress,” Torgeson said.

The strength of the team is the deep pitching, led by Jacob Klath, Alex Chandler, Chase Knudson, Aaron Evans and Ian Chandler. “Right now, Jacob is probably our best pitcher,” Torgeson said. “But we have 4-5 good pitchers.”