The Kalispell Lakers had the 2018 season circled on the calendar for more than a decade. The Class AA Montana/Alberta American Legion state tournament was coming to Griffin Field in Kalispell for the first time in 13 years, and the Lakers had a veteran team anchored by a superlative pitching staff that was a legitimate contender to win the program’s first state title since 1978.
The Lakers ultimately fell short at the state tournament, but that disappointment did not obscure an otherwise outstanding season. Kalispell was 39-16 overall, finished second in the regular season and had three regulars named to the all-state team.
Now, of course, the calendar reads 2019, and for the Lakers that means it’s time to prove they belong among the state’s elite once again despite a boatload of roster turnover.
The story is much the same in Whitefish, where the Class A Glacier Twins had one of their most successful seasons ever, going 42-16 including a 25-game late-season winning streak, and taking home the district, state and Class A Northwest Regional tournament titles. They, too, have much to replace this year, although Glacier’s newcomers are primarily position players, tasked to produce just enough to support an experienced group of pitchers.
Montana’s American Legion baseball season began in earnest last weekend and runs through the month of July. For more information on both programs, visit kalispelllakers.org or glaciertwinsbaseball.org.
All-state pitchers Sam Elliott and Drew Scherrer anchored a staff that finished the 2018 regular season with a tidy 2.55 ERA. Elliott and Scherrer are both now college athletes — Elliott a basketball player at MSU-Billings, Scherrer on the diamond at Corban University — and fellow starters Dawson Smith and Johan Freudenberg also aged out of the program.
Thankfully for the Lakers, there is one ace pitcher still on the roster. Logan Siblerud has one more season of eligibility remaining before he heads off to play at MSU-Billings along with infielder Randy Stultz, the Lakers’ best hitter and an all-state pick in 2018. Stultz is coming off a season in which he hit .357.
Stultz will start this season at third base, moving over from shortstop to make way for newcomers Connor Drish and Luke Halland, who will anchor a strong defense up the middle that starts with returning catcher Jonathan Craver. Other Lakers to keep an eye on include Taylor Morton, Eric Seaman, Jack Corriveau, Ryan Symmes, A.J. Jones and Payton Davisson.
Just about every position on the field is up for grabs at the start of the season for the Twins, who are replacing eight regulars from last year’s lineup.
On the mound, on the other hand, it’s a different story. All-state honoree and regional tournament MVP Coby Clark-Dickinson headlines a talented bunch of pitchers that includes Nathan Hader, Zach Veneman, Forrest Kobelt and Chad Queen. Clark-Dickinson made a team-leading 15 starts a year ago and finished the year with a 2.33 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. At the plate, Clark-Dickinson was just as good, batting .463 with 28 extra-base hits and 67 RBIs.
The Twins will look to some of their younger players to fill in the rest of the production offensively, led by second baseman Jack Price and centerfielder Jay Tyree, both of whom played primarily for Glacier’s Class B team a year ago.