Howie: Western Yankees a team to watch

Howie
Hanson

The mighty Western Little League Yankees majors opened the 2017 regular season with a bang Sunday afternoon at John Baggs Memorial Field 2, defeating Moose Lake-Willow River Mercy Hospital 13-0 in five innings.

Yankees pitchers Caleb Kilroy and Vinnie Simone combined for a two-hitter in the 10-run rule shortened game. Kilroy worked the first three innings, striking out seven of the nine batters he faced without surrendering a hit. Simone fanned four Mercy Hospital batters in two innings.

“We’re fairly deep pitching-wise,” Yankees coach Corey Verhel said after the game. “Caleb is one of our top pitchers, and Vinnie throws well for his size.”

“Nate Maki, Ryan LeMay, lefty Tommy Northcutt, Taylor Shykes, Parker Verhel and Blake Imhoff will also see some time on the mound some this summer.”

Shykes, Verhel and Imhoff are returning three-year Yankees all-stars. The Yankees lost 3-1 to the unbeaten Western Dodgers in the Quad Cities championship game a year ago, finishing 22-3 overall and losing only to Western opponents.

Expect more success from the Yankees this summer.

Help has already arrived from first-year standout Dylan Allen, who belted a two-run home run Sunday for his first-ever hit.

“Dyan has never played organized baseball, but he really got a hold of one, perhaps the hardest ball he’s ever hit,” said Verhel. “He was pretty excited, as he should have been, and probably missed first base as he sprinted around the bases. His teammates were really happy for him.”

Verhel on his players:

Allen: “He’s a tremendous athlete. If we had a team race around the bases, he’d probably win by three or four yards. We played him at first base in the opener, and we plan to also use him in the outfield.”

Connor Doyle: “He’s a first-year major who will play some outfield, and maybe some corner infield and catcher. A hockey goalie in hockey, he’ll figure out how to be a defensive asset on our team. We’ll work on his aggressiveness offensively.”

Imoff: “He’s a lefty with a nice swing. He’s been an all-star each of the last three years and will catch a lot for us this summer.”

Kilroy: “He’s quick, a gap hitter and led off in the opener. He’s only an 11-year-old who’s mostly played up in his career. We’ll use him in the middle infield, and at catcher and centerfield.”

Koski: “He’s a little raw baseball wise, but a good athlete who is one of the top basketball players in West Duluth for his age. He’s got good ability in his baseball tool box, and we’re confident that he will develop into a nice middle infielder and hitter.”

LeMay: “Ryan comes over from Central Little League, and will be a versatile player for us, playing a lot of catcher and other infield positions including getting plenty of time on the mound. He’ll hit in the middle of the order and be a consistent producer with his bat.”

Maki: “He will be one of our top pitchers and will be used in prime defensive position roles. He might be our most-consistent hitter. The ball really jumps off his bat. He hit third in the opener.”

Northcutt: “He’s small but fast as they come. He’s also a tremendous athlete. A lefty, he might hit second for most of the summer.”

Luke Pearson: “He’s a gamer, a hard-nosed player who we fully expect will improve a lot throughout the season. He’s currently derailed, on injured reserve following appendectomy surgery, and we expect him back in the lineup soon.”

Sorin Sebok: “Sorin is the most polite kid on the team, but is a bulldog on the field. He consistently makes the routine plays, so he earns time at certain positions because of that. He will have his moments offensively as well, but overall he’s just a hardworking kid who has fun coming to the baseball field.”

Shykes: “He’s in the middle of a physical growth spurt, as his game continues to improve steadily. He will continue to hit in that four-five slot for us. He will also serve as a short-inning closer role on the mound.”

Simone: “He’s a little fireplug, who hits hard line drives. He also plays a good outfield with a good arm. On the mound, he’s a strike-thrower.”

Verhel: “Parker is an experienced player being a returner from last year and being an all-star player for the last three years. He will play different infield positions and contribute on the mound. He’s an aggressive base runner with good instincts and provides good at-bats every time out.”

Joining Verhel as volunteer coaches are Pete Kilroy and Mike Imhoff.

Quad Cities Major League Scoreboard

Sunday Results
Western Pirates 11, Moose Lake-Willow River Mercy Hospital 1
Western Yankees 13, Moose Lake-Willow River Moose Lake Dental 0

Today’s Games
Esko Adolphson Real Estate vs. Cloquet Sammy’s Pizza, 6 p.m. Cloquet’s Braun Park USG

TIDBITS: Bulldogs men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin will be the keynote speaker at the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup Luncheon at noon Thursday at the Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth. The 2017 NAHL Robertson Cup Championship begins Thursday at Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Sports Center.