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HARNER: Sudden success of Sr. Legion is not a surprise

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By Andrew Harner

American Legion baseball exists in part to teach young men of this country the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship by participating in a sport supported by veterans.

The Legion itself promotes these values on its website, but too many times, these values are forgotten when adults involved with the programs develop their own ulterior motives.

According to a person with knowledge of the conversation, one coach in Vandalia’s Sr. Legion District has been questioning why Post 95’s team is all of a sudden doing so well, and it’s rumored that this individual even looked for ways to get Vandalia disqualified from this week’s District Tournament.

That’s about as unsportsmanlike as it gets – especially when a simple conversation with someone close to Vandalia’s team would make it clear to this person the level of irresponsibility his comments show.

It’s simple, really.

There was a perfect storm of local talent maturing, one team folding and a handful of players coming to play Legion ball for the first time in their careers.

Vandalia just happened to be the epicenter.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Noah Powless, Gavin Ratermann and Dylen Peters graduated from South Central’s Jr. Legion program to the Sr. Legion level, and chose to play for Vandalia, as opposed to Salem, which every year also fields players from South Central.

While some of their high school teammates do play for Salem, the trio decided to come to Vandalia to be reunited with former teammates Kyle Bray and Austin Schwarm.

Johnnie Clift, Quinn Wadkins, Clinton Hood and Ryan Miller all returned to Vandalia after Patoka’s one-year experiment with a Sr. Legion team wasn’t put back into place for this summer.

Gaining back those former Vandalia Jr. Legion players has provided a big boost to the offense, defense and pitching staff.

Connor Beasley, a St. Elmo graduate who played sparingly for Post 95 last season, returned as a full-time pitcher as he gears up to try to get a spot at McKendree University.

Jacob Behrends, a Brownstown graduate, came to pitch in Legion baseball for the first time after signing with the Lewis and Clark Community College, and Hillsboro ace Matt Tomazzoli switched to Post 95 from the Litchfield Mules.

In them, came three front-line starters.

Take away one of these factors, and Vandalia would not be 28-8, but a winning season would still be in order.

Yes, Vandalia suddenly has a new look, with just four regulars returning from last summer, but don’t let a bounty of new players trick you into believing that they were acquired in ways outside of the rules.