TECUMSEH – The American Legion is not sponsoring baseball this season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regional tournaments and World Series were cancelled back on April 7. The Michigan Department followed suit on April 10 when they cancelled the zone and state tournaments. With the loss of their sanctioning body local teams were forced to scramble if they wanted to compete. They could not use their American Legion uniforms necessitating the purchase of new ones.

Post 171 returned to action last weekend as the Thunder when they traveled to southern Michigan to play in the Legacy College Prep Classic. Originally it was thought that teams could not use their Post names either, so Gladwin adopted the name Thunder for the year and developed a new logo. Coach Terry Brokoff said, “It’s a name that we have thought about using for a while.” It goes along with the younger team that is called the Gladwin Lightening. “We now know that it is okay to use the Post 171 name we just can’t have the American Legion logos on our uniforms.

The season debut was successful as Gladwin won all four of its games. They were ineligible for championship play due to age limit deadlines that vary between sanctioning bodies. The American Legion allows 19 year olds as long as they are 18 on December 31. Most other groups have an April 30 or May 1 date. Since the Thunder has three players over this age limit they were allowed to compete, but couldn’t go beyond pool play. Brokoff mentioned that many tournaments will make exceptions this summer so that American Legion teams are not penalized. One of the teams that Gladwin defeated in pool play actually made it to Sunday’s championship game.

“We were grateful to be able to go and play four quality baseball games against good teams,” said Brokoff.  “We made some mistakes, but it gave us a chance to see what we have to work on.” All of the games were close. The largest margin of victory was three runs in the opening contest on Thursday when the Thunder defeated the Oakland Reds 6-3. Carson Oldani and Trent Reed led the Thunder with two hits each. Oldani had three RBIs. Hunter Merillat was outstanding on the mound. He went four innings without giving up a hit and struck out eight.

The Thunder found themselves behind 2-0 going into the bottom of the sixth on Friday morning. Arsenal, starting pitcher Avery Mona, had limited them to two hits over the first five innings before Merillat led off the sixth inning with a homerun. Three walks and two more hits allowed Gladwin to score three additional runs and take a 4-2 lead. Ethan Shea threw a scoreless seventh inning to seal the victory for the Thunder.

Jarrett Inscho picked up the win in game three over the Oakland Bulldogs 4-3. He went five and a third innings surrendering one earned run while striking out four. Dane Smitz was three for four including a double and triple. The Thunder jumped out to a five run lead in their final game against the Detroit Trailblazers on Saturday afternoon. Gladwin scored five runs in the second and one in the third to lead 6-2 going into the bottom of the sixth. A hit batter and three walks allowed Detroit to cut the score to 6-4 before John Cogswell came in to retire the final two batters and pick up the save. Owen Franklin got the win for the Thunder. He pitched five innings giving up three hits and two runs.

Brokoff mentioned, “everything was normal on the field and in the dugouts although we social distanced whenever we could.” He also said that the dugouts were cleaned between games and all players and coaches were screened and had their temperature taken before games. The schedule for this weekend has not been finalized, but the Thunder will be playing. “We are not sure of the location yet,” said Brokoff. “Tournaments are having trouble finding places to play.” Some school districts have not opened their fields for competition. Others have not been maintaining them so the conditions are not always great. They played on several fields last weekend that had not been watered in quite some time.

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