The roster reads like a who’s who of the best baseball players south of the tower, exactly what Post 39 envisioned when it expanded its footprint a few years ago.
Now, the American Legion squad wants to see where the talent can take it.
“I love the makeup of the team,” manager Pete Podedworny said. “What it comes down to every year is you’ve got to bring the motivation. You can have all the talent in the world, but the summer is a tough time, especially when you have a lot of seniors. That’s a challenge and I put it on them early in the season. I said, ‘On paper, this team is one of the best in Rhode Island American Legion, clearly. On paper. But you’ve got to bring it. You’ve got to show up.’”
A chunk of the early-season schedule was impacted by rain, but Post 39 has gotten its campaign into gear since the Fourth of July holiday. South Kingstown swept a doubleheader against West Warwick Post Two Friday night at McCarthy Field before dropping a pair of close games to another likely contender, New England Frozen Lemonade, on Sunday.
“We’ve got the bulk of our schedule coming up, so we’re excited,” Podedworny said.
The team features players from South Kingstown, Narragansett, Prout, Chariho and Westerly, including college-bound all-staters from the 2018 championship squads at South Kingstown and Chariho. The Rebel contingent features Blaine Lidsky, Cole Podedworny, Broc French and Colin Egan. From Chariho are Ben Harrison, Dylan LaBelle and URI commit Sean Sposato – who pitched the Chargers to the Division II title in 2018 – along with Will Beaudreau.
“We have a blend of guys, majority from South Kingstown and Chariho,” Pete Podedworny said. “Both those teams are one year removed from state championships, not to mention South went to the semis this year and Chariho moved up to D-I and played well. We’ve got good talent.”
Other players in the mix are South Kingstown’s Phil Ruhle, Harry Loud and Kevin Gutelius, Chariho’s Kyle Abbot and Mark Wightman, Prout’s Henry Hersum and Westerly’s James and Phil Pederson. James Pederson is a 2018 graduate who played at CCRI this past season. Two young players from Narragansett, Brady Butler and Owen Costa, are on the roster while also playing junior legion.
A year after running short on arms, especially at playoff time, Post 39 has significant depth in the rotation this summer. Harrison, LaBelle, Sposato, French and Ruhle have a lot of successful high school innings to their name. Hersum didn’t see a ton of action at Prout this season but starred for Post 39 in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, pitching a complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts. Ruhle also went the distance in the first game.
“That’s a young team but our kids came to play tonight,” Podedworny said. “Pitching was great. Phil finished the game in under 100 pitches and Henry did a really nice job out there. He was confident.”
The offense should have some pop, as it did on Friday. Post 39 piled up runs in both games, blowing the first game open late and steadily pulling away en route to a 10-0 win in the second game. Sposato led the way with three doubles and French chipped in a pair of doubles.
The doubleheader loss to NEFL left Post 39 with a 4-5 record, but plenty of opportunities remain to improve upon it. When all is said and done, Post 39 hopes to be among the best teams in the league.
“I think Upper Deck, New England Frozen Lemonade, Gershkoff and us are probably the four,” Podedworny said. “I think Upper Deck right now is slightly ahead of everybody, but hopefully we can be up there. I love the group we have.”