by Eric Oslund
The Zimmerman legion team, dubbed the Zebras, have taken on a life of their own. Originally, the name was given to them when they were told they couldn’t use the Thunder, because that’s just not how things were in legion baseball, so they decided to use the name of the mascot at the town’s elementary school – the Zebras.
It was meant to be an inside joke among the players, but it continued to grow and grow, and now that’s what they are known by. The team even sports stripped jerseys and socks to help go along with the name.
“It kind of started as an inside joke that eventually the coaching staff kind of took it along,” head coach Michael Lorden said. “Now we’re the Zebras. Just an inside joke that spread into reality I guess.”
The Post 560 Zebras have had quite a successful season, which could either surprise, or live up to the expectations of those who followed the high school baseball season. The Zimmerman high school team was one of the more talented that have come through the school in a number of years, but always seemed to have trouble coming away with wins.
They’d either record far too many errors in a game, or never come up with a timely hit with runners in scoring position, but this summer appears to be different. The defense is clearly more confident, playing at a high level, and all the batters in the lineup continue to step up and get that big hit when it is needed.
“If you look in our books, at one point in the year it was like 18 of our 22 runs came in the sixth inning. We just kept coming back and beating teams when we were on our winning streak there,” Lorden said. “I think for awhile there, or for most of the season, we were getting those big hits. It’s rare now when we don’t. It’s been nice to see them grow in that way, you can see them growing as a team and as players as well.”
Another big reason for the turn around this summer is the return of their starting third baseman, Sam Mattson. He has been a starter on the high school team for a number of years, but had to miss last season because of an injury he suffered during the hockey season where he plays goalie.
His absence forced players to have to play in spots they weren’t used to, which led to some uneasiness and errors.
Now, with Mattson back, everyone has returned to their positions of choice, and the results are evident.
“The defense has actually been pretty strong this year,” the head coach began. “The fielding’s been great, we’ve had a couple – maybe two or three – games where we haven’t committed an error.
“(Mattson) kind of like anchors our defense from the third base spot there. Very reliable. When the ball is hit to him, people feel very confident that he will make the play.”
With the legion baseball season now beginning to come to an end, the Zebras are going to need Mattson, and the rest of the team, to continue to play at a high level. The meeting to determine the seeding in the district tournament took place on Wednesday, July 12, and heading into it Lorden believed his team was going to be given the fifth seed out of 11 teams.
The district tournament begins on Tuesday, July 18, and if the Zebras just play the way they are capable of, they should be able to advance through their district and into the state tournament. They have beaten every team in their playoff league, but have also recorded multiple losses – resulting in a lot of splits between them and the teams they will face.
But they remain confident, and are anxiously waiting to head to Princeton and get the tournament underway.
“If our starting pitchers can go and give us a good shot late in the game, I think we’ll be able to come up with enough clutch hits,” Lorden explained, “or we’ll hustle out a play or two to kind of give us some good chances of pulling out those games.”