Ingredients are there for the 2020 Charleston Fighting Squirrels to be the best team yet
Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat
CHARLESTON, Mo. — Fifteen games into the 2020 summer season and the Charleston Fighting Squirrels have won every one of those games.
A loaded group, this season’s Charleston team can beat you in more ways than one. At the plate, on the mound, or running the bases, this team continues to show how cohesive a unit they are.
The season is far from over and the ingredients are there for this to be the best team that Charleston head coach Michael Minner has had, but he isn't ready to rank them. At least not yet.
“We’re solid,” Minner said. “We’re a good baseball team right now. It’s a little early to be ranking. We’ve had some really good teams, some really good players and we’re excited we’re just playing baseball. Hopefully, we’ll continue to have some success and, maybe, at the end of the summer, we’ll talk about this as one of the most memorable summers that we’ve had. Right now, we’re just trying to find a way to get better and run the bases better and get our pitchers in shape. We feel like if we do some of that, things will fall into place and we got a chance to be pretty good, but right now, we don’t put too much on wins and losses.
“We’ve been fortunate to start 15-0 and we’ve got some really good players. We got some unselfish guys. Guys are grinding out at-bats, they’re not too good to take a walk; they’re not trying to do too much and they’re letting the guy behind them be a hero. If we continue to do that, good things will happen. This is a good group of kids and we’re just excited that they’re a part of our organization.”
Tuesday night, against the Southeast Spartans, was a prime example of some of the ingredients in this team's recipe.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Fighting Squirrels defeated the Spartans 11-1, thanks to excellent pitching performances from Marshall Brown and Chase Crosnoe, while also cranking out 12 base hits, five of which were extra-base hits.
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Brown started the game for the Fighting Squirrels, pitching four innings and giving up two hits and one earned run. He struck out 11 batters and walked two.
Crosnoe then came in for relief and was excellent as well. He pitched the final two innings of the contest, before the game ended due to the 10-run mercy rule, and did not yield one hit or run, while striking out three and walking one.
Additionally, Crosnoe also provided a strong night with the bat.
The ex-Cape Central Tiger went 3-for-4 with two doubles, one RBI and scored one run.
Pitching carried over into the second game of the doubleheader, as Dawson Crawford toed the slab and provided an equally outstanding outing.
Crawford went the distance for Charleston, as he only needed five innings before the game ended due to time constraints.
During his five innings of work, Crawford pitched a one-hit shutout, while allowing one walk and striking out 13 Spartans.
At this point in the season, Minner is trying to keep his pitching staff healthy and fresh. On Tuesday night, he limited his hurlers to an 80-pitch limit but knows that his team understands why restrictions are in place.
“We’re trying to get arms in shape right now,” Minner said. “We shut people down tonight at 80 pitches and if guys can go deep into ballgames with 80 pitches, then we’re ready to go, but we’re still a couple of weeks away from guys competing deep into pitch counts. Two weeks from now, we’ll start to see what kind of baseball team this is, so right now, like I said, we got a bunch of great kids who love being here. They’re here, they beat coaches to the park, they want to hit in the cage, they want to play catch, they want to find a way to be better and so that’s fun to be apart of when you got 18 guys who love being at the park as much as me.
“Our organization this summer is in really good hands with a lot of great kids and families.”
Charleston native Ajay Sager is one of the more tenured Fighting Squirrels players, as he has been involved with the organization since he was around 10-years-old.
One thing that Sager pointed out that makes this team unique is how everyone wants to get better and wants to help each other improve.
“Honestly, this team is just full of baseball guys,” Sager said. “Over the years, I’ve played with a bunch of good baseball guys, but I feel like the team right now; they all want to get better. They take it one game at a time and if you need tips on anything, they’ll be sure to help you out and they’ll help pick each other up.”
Sager also mentioned that even though every year consists of a different crop of talent, they are summers that include building relationships on and off the field and he wouldn't have it any other way.
“Every year, there’s a different group of guys who come in and get to make family and friends with every year and you get to travel all over Missouri and play against new teams and try to see new talent,” Sager said. “Coach Minner is a great coach. He helps you learn everything about the game, every aspect and every position and it’s just a great, all-around experience.”