Robert Montgomery Legion Baseball Tournament: Thompson winning while battling a numbers crunch
Jason Schwabe had a few images of Thompson baseball when he was coaching high school baseball at Langdon a few years ago. "They always seemed to be a tradition-rich program, with good athletes and strong numbers," Schwabe said. Now that he's coac...
Jason Schwabe had a few images of Thompson baseball when he was coaching high school baseball at Langdon a few years ago.
"They always seemed to be a tradition-rich program, with good athletes and strong numbers," Schwabe said.
Now that he's coaching American Legion baseball at Thompson, Schwabe has found he was right on two out of three. There's the tradition and the athleticism. But the numbers are an issue this summer.
Thompson has two players out of the age 15-and-under Babe Ruth ranks in its starting lineup in the annual Robert Montgomery Memorial American Legion baseball tournament in Grand Forks this weekend. Thompson, 6-4 overall, gained a berth in today's semifinals by going 2-0 on Saturday and winning its pool. Thompson scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally past the Grand Forks Blues 12-11, then blanked Warren 10-0.
Thompson has 14 players on its roster, six of whom are still playing Babe Ruth ball. Saturday, Babe Ruthers Skylar Carlson and Ryne Dollslager -- the latter a 13-year-old just a year removed from Cal Ripken baseball -- were in the lineup. Dollslager caught the second game.
"It's surprising," Schwabe said of the makeup of his roster. "They've had success in Legion ball in the past. The high school program had 24 kids out this spring, and most of them were Legion-age players.
"Work is a big thing for some of the guys who aren't out. And summer basketball leagues and football camps are a big thing. Because we're close to Grand Forks, there are more things to offer to our kids than in some of the smaller towns."
Leading by example
While Thompson is young, it has been competitive. Schwabe credits a lot of that to two of the team's older players, Brandon Weber and Andy Naas. The duo gives Thompson a one-two punch on the mound.
"They can go out and shut teams down," Schwabe said. "They get a lot of strikeouts. If you have a pitcher like that and you can make the routine defensive plays behind them, you're going to be in a game.
"And kids like Brandon and Andy are really committed to baseball. That really helps. Their passion for the game is contagious. That helps get other kids out. And they're good at everything; younger kids see that and want to do what they're doing, too."
Weber showed how he can dominate recently. In a win against Gardner, Weber was on the mound and recorded three outs on just three pitches in the bottom of an inning. In the top of the next inning, he hit a three-run home run.
While Schwabe is surprised by the low numbers in a baseball program that traditionally has been highly competitive, he also knows his situation isn't unique.
"Talking to other coaches, everybody goes through it," Schwabe said. "And, when you're in a small town, if you lose just a few kids, that really makes a big difference. It makes it more difficult to be competitive against the good teams."
In today's semifinal round, Thompson plays the Fargo Bombers at 10:30 a.m., followed by Grafton against Winnipeg at 1 p.m. The third-place game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., with the championship at 6.
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