By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
The Crushers Post 58, an American Legion baseball team in Stayton, have moved to Keizer.
Led by former Stayton High School coach Drew Heard, the team is a collection of the best players from McNary, McKay, Silverton, Regis, Kennedy and Stayton.
“I chose not to coach in high school this year because I wanted to focus on the Legion program and I wanted to move us out of Stayton because it didn’t make any sense for us to be out there,” Heard said. “The majority of our team is coming from Salem. To have kids driving all the way out there every single day for a ‘home game’ or practice was just kind of silly.”
Heard also wanted to pick the right kind of players.
“I wanted to scout and I wanted to get really good character kids and I think we did that,” Heard said. “I really feel good about our club. I feel good about the direction that we’re going and I feel really good about representing the community.”
Eight of the 18 Crushers played for the McNary varsity team last season—2017 graduates Josiah Gilbert, Jonah Geist, Joshua Benson, Riley Hays, Brendan Frizelle and Daniel Johnson as well as rising senior Carl Rumbaugh and junior Tyler Covalt.
The Crushers, who have more than 30 games scheduled between June 12 and July 19, play their home contests on McNary’s Vic Backlund Field.
Keizer plays in the six-team Area 3 with squads from Salem, Dallas, Albany, Corvallis and Newport.
After the regular season, the top four teams will play another area in a best of three super regional with the winners advancing to the double elimination state tournament in Klamath Falls at the end of July.
The Crushers opened the season 4-3 after falling at Corvallis 7-0 on Monday, June 19.
Keizer split with the Gerding Builders on Sunday. After losing the first game 6-3, the Crushers won the second game 2-1 in 12 innings. Geist scored the winning run on an error.
Gilbert got the start on the mound and allowed just six hits and one unearned run over eight innings. He struck out 11 and walked two.
“The difference in Josiah from a year ago is almost indescribable,” Heard said.
“His mentality is entirely different. He’s mechanically 10 times better. He’s just doing a great job and he deserves all the credit in the world for all of the work that he’s put in.”
Hays earned the win, allowing just two hits over four shutout innings.
Keizer swept N.W. Stars Academy 8-3 and 8-5 on Saturday.
Geist was 1-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs while Covalt was 2-for-3 and scored a run in the first game. Brycen Schumacher was 1-for-2 with a double and two runs in the second game.
The Crushers are taking a break from league play to host a tournament June 22-25 that includes a team from Perth, Australia.
Pool play games are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The championship game will be played on Sunday at Willamette University.
“We had a lot of meetings before the season that we wanted to change the mentality of the program and to change the way the program has done things in years past,” Heard said.
“These kids have bought in and they are working incredibly hard and I’m just really proud of them and I think that we have great potential. as a team and as a program. I feel really, really great about how we’re going to represent the community.”