ChannelCats' teams adjust in return

Muskegon Chronicle
by Mike Mattson
Wednesday July 01, 2009

Travel baseball creates some challenges -- just ask Muskegon ChannelCats 17U manager Don Giddings.

"They aren't used to seeing a good pitcher every single game,'' Giddings said about his players. "Everybody throws decent in travel ball. We're all adjusting.''

Indeed, all three ChannelCats teams are adjusting in the organization's first year back on the travel baseball circuit. The 18U squad is 5-7-1, Giddings' 17U team is 5-9 and the 16U club is 4-9.

Co-coach Brandon Bard said pitching has been a concern for his 18U team. Two pitchers -- Spring Lake's Chris Sabo and Oakridge's Jamie Potts have experienced sore arms and haven't had a lot of time on the mound.

"We'll need to pick up some more pitchers for the next tournament,'' Bard said. "Our biggest problem has been pitching.''

Grand Haven's Jordan Anderson and Whitehall's Jared Conkle have been key hitters for the ChannelCats. Mona Shores' Jake Waalkes and Anderson also have been effective pitchers.

Bard's team has played in two tourneys -- going 1-4 in the Kalamazoo Maroons Wood Bat Tournament and 2-2-1 in last weekend's Battle Creek Mayors Cup. It will not play again until July 7 against the Grand Rapids Flames and at Mount Pleasant's Ultimate Strike Zone Tournament on July 9-12.

Giddings' team has lost five games by one run. "Defense has been our strong suit,'' Giddings said. "We've done well with defense and pitching. Our hitting is starting to come around.''

Shelby shortstop Kyle Plummer has been a key hitter and Spring Lake's Kyle Wasserberger has been a top pitcher.

The 17U team also is a young squad, with many 15- and 16-year-olds on the roster.

The biggest adjustment to travel ball is Muskegon's 16U team. But the team has shown progress, including a recent split against the well-established Maroons.

"They are adjusting well,'' 16U manager Greg Guzman said. "We're picking some kids off and doing some more offensive things.''

Leading the 16U squad are pitcher/infielders Josh Wieten of Orchard View and Nate O'Brien of Mona Shores. Pitchers Nick Somerville of Reeths-Puffer and Shawn Keller of OV also have boosted the pitching staff.

Overall, ChannelCats founder Len Piasecki is satisfied with the progress of all three teams, with each having 14 players from the Muskegon area.

"I look at this year as a growing year for the ChannelCats organization,'' Piasecki said. "I'm satisfied with the amount of players we've signed. This is the first step in a long journey to have travel ball return along the lakeshore.''

For information and game results on all three teams, go to twitter.com/channelcats.

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