With a smaller roster and an abbreviated schedule, the Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen class AA American Legion baseball team finally opens its season this week.
The Lums play host to the Lewis-Clark Twins in a North Idaho League doubleheader Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Thorco Field. Coeur d’Alene plays a single, league, game vs. the Prairie Cardinals on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Post Falls High.
Due in part to limited numbers and, especially, limited pitching, the Lums will play eight league games, as well as possibly a tournament during the regular season, prior to the Area A (district) tournament in Lewiston in late July.
According to Coeur d’Alene American Legion president Mike Thompson, two coaches who were part of the Lums’ class A team last year left to form their own travel team this season — a team which included several players from the Coeur d’Alene Legion program.
“Which didn’t hurt my team as much, but they pulled a lot of kids off our younger team, that feeds us,” said Kevin Dunton, back for his second season as the Lums’ AA head coach. “We lost a lot of those kids that would have filled in (on the AA team).”
Rather than bring up a bunch of younger players to field a AA squad, Coeur d’Alene Legion officials and coaches were able to find enough remaining “older” players to put together a team for this season.
“These kids were willing (to play),” Dunton said. “All these kids just want to come out and play for the enjoyment of the game, for the community and for the Lums, which is good to hear.”
Brady Thompson and Bennett Cunningham are among the returnees from last year’s Lums team that went 10-23 and qualified for state.
Thompson will be one of the Lums’ main pitchers, and will also play outfield and infield, Dunton said.
Cunningham will play center field, and possibly some in the infield.
Other returnees include Levi Haen (pitcher, infield), Jack Bloom (first base, third base), Matt Gjevre (outfield), Brett Keesee (outfield, pitcher) and Tanner Mueller (pitcher). Mueller pitched for Kellogg High; all the others are from Coeur d’Alene High with the exception of Cunningham, who attends Lake City.
Other Lums include Carter Friesz (catcher), Michael Dooley (first base, outfield) and Zach Mackimmie (outfield, pitcher).
“I’m happy with the guys we have,” Dunton said. “We’re thin as far as pitching, but they know what it’s like to win games.”
With only four or five capable arms, the Lums were hesitant to put together too taxing a schedule.
“We have experience, and we’re definitely an offensive-minded team,” Dunton said. “We have a lot of pop in the middle of the order. It’ll just have to be quality over quantity.”
Kolby DeHaas, a former Lum who played for Wenatchee Valley and NCAA Division II Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa., is Dunton’s assistant coach.
“We’ve got such a good freshman and sophomore class, but we decided to keep them together with coach (Erik) Karns,” Dunton said. “It was the right decision to have them play at the A level.”
Karns, the Lums’ class A head coach, is assisted by Paul Manzardo, the Lake City High head coach.
Coeur d’Alene also fields 14-and-under aht 13U teams in its Legion program.
“The numbers on our younger teams are really good,” said Dunton, who coached in the lower levels of the Lums’ program for years. “The future’s good from here on out; we just have to weather this year.”