The Leigh/Schuyler Crawdads seek a return to the Dodge County Baseball League playoffs this summer. The team qualified for the semifinals a year ago and were eliminated in a 5-0 loss to West Point.
With about 10 players returning from last year's squad, Crawdads head coach Keith Manak expects to challenge for a playoff spot.
"That's where I expect to be at the end of the season," Manak said. "Whether we get there or not depends on what happens."
Leigh/Schuyler finished fourth in the league last year thanks, Manak said, in large part to a good stretch of strong play. Despite an appearance in the semifinals, that had largely fizzled out by late in the year.
When all the players are available, Manak said he believes its a roster that can beat any team in the league.
"That experience coming back from last year is definitely going to help us because they know what to expect in the league," he said. "They know the other players from the other teams, so that's definitely going to benefit us."
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In Manak's estimation, consistent offense could be the highest hurdle to clear. Once on the bases, however, speed remains. Among the hitters returning to the lineup is Andy Alstadt, who was a DCBL All-Star last year.
"If you put the bat on the ball, good things are going to happen. I'm going to lean on my veterans - Blake Bubak, who's been here for five, six years, Dylan Benne, Andy Alstadt, Jacob Morse and Brandon Kontz," Manak said. "Those are the guys that have been around for a few years, so I definitely lean on those guys to provide the offensive power and some leadership on the team."
On the mound, the Crawdads will rely on about six pitchers for the rotation and relief. Throwing consistent strikes will be the key, according to Manak.
"Our guys don't throw extremely hard, but they hit their spots when they have to," he said. "If we can eliminate the walks, on the mound, we'll be good."
Leigh/Schuyler is off to a 2-3 start. On May 29, it was shut out 8-0 by the Wahoo Wombats. In the second game of the season, the Dodge Diamondbacks won 9-2. Manak described Wahoo and Dodge as the two best teams in the league.
"The only thing about the first game is that we had eight walks, so that was a down part, but we got out of a lot of those situations, so that's positive. The second game, we definitely hit the ball better," Manak said. "I threw a kid (Todd Cerny) that just joined our roster this year, so I really didn't know anything about him. He actually pitched very good. I was very happy with the way he pitched for being as depleted as we were that day. It's very positive because we're better what we played in those two games and I know we'll be better as the season goes along. I can't wait to play those two teams again."
On June 5, the Valley Terriers forfeited the game when they didn't have enough players available for a full lineup. On June 12, the Crawdads defeated Scribner 5-2. Max Brammier threw seven shutout innings allowing two hits, two walks and striking out eight Hogs. Alstadt and Carter Luedtke had two hits each.
On Thursday, the Crawdads were defeated by the West Point Bombers 10-0.
Sam Ficarro is a sports reporter with the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net.