So far, so good for the second-year Metro East Bears of the American Senior Legion District 22 baseball league.
The Bears sport a 7-1 record entering this week, thanks mainly to seven consecutive wins to start the season. They were supposed to entertain league rival Fairview Heights at 7:30 Wednesday at Hopkins Field, but it was rained out. The Bears are 1-0 in District 22 play and gaining traction with each outing.
"The team is shaping up now and I think they are right on target," Bears' general manager Dennis Sharp said. "It was kind of hard to get the whole team together at first because there wasn't that much time to do it at the end of the high school season.
"But we have our full roster now, so there's some continuity going. Our start is a good one."
They have plenty to play for this summer. The Bears welcome the eight-team Great Lakes Regional on Aug. 5-9 at The Hop. The regional champion advances to the nationals in Shelby, N.C., beginning Aug. 13. And since Metro East is playing host to the regional, it has an automatic berth in the affair. The Bears also welcome the 2016 regional.
“It’s a drawing card for the kids and we want to show that we deserve to be there,” Sharp said of the regional. “And we are doing very well in getting the funding for it. We’ve raised about $22,000 so far.”
He estimates the cost at $28,000 per year.
Sharp figures the Bears, who have players from Alton, Edwardsville, Civic Memorial, Roxana and Metro East Lutheran High Schools, have the talent to produce another winner. They were 24-8 in their inaugural season.
“Our pitching depth is tremendous and we have added a few hitters to the lineup,” he said. “So we’ll have good pitching and hitting. If you are going to make any kind of run in the post season, you need a deep pitching staff.”
Steve Haug, Nick Smith and Tim Stunkel are assisting field manager Ken Schaake and Sharp with the program. The roster includes: Matt Bower, Seth Boschert, Caleb Buhs, Chance Foss, Drake Hampton, Jordan Hovey, Anthony Kindle, Mitchell Krebs, Daniel Lloyd, Kory Loew, Maverick McSparin, Connor Melton, Nick Paulda, Chris Robinson, Jacob St. Peters, Jacob Skrabacz, Brock Weimer, Kyle Zach, Matt Zielonko and Ty Zeller.
“The dugout has meshed well,” Sharp said. “We are all there for the same reason.”
Metro East, which goes by Edwardsville Post 199/Alton Post 126, is one of five teams cast in District 22 competition. Highland, Belleville, Fairview Heights and East St. Louis round out the league. Thus, each team will play just seven district games prior to the playoffs.
"The way it's shaking out is that District 22 is becoming a power league," Sharp said. "We saw this coming two years ago."
He added, "Overall, we will see a good variety of teams this season. We did what we needed to do and that makes it more exciting for the kids."
The district champ advances to Fifth Division play at Carmi. The state finals are in Chicagoland.
The Great Lakes Regional will have a pair of teams from both Illinois and Wisconsin. Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana also will be represented. The Bears are scheduled to meet the Indiana state champion at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. The regional title game is tentatively set for 4 or 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 9.
"It's going to be an exciting time the next two summers," Sharp said. "And it'll be a lot of fun, that's for sure."