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KWL swings to a strong start

WHITE LAKE -- It's been a long road to relevance for the Kimball/White Lake amateur baseball team. But they've arrived at the top of the Pony Hills League. The Nationals are 7-1 in the Pony Hills League, with the only loss coming to perennial con...

Kimball/White Lake's Brian Zeman throws the ball to first base during a Pony Hills League amateur baseball game on Thursday in White Lake. (Eric Mayer/Republic)
Kimball/White Lake's Brian Zeman throws the ball to first base during a Pony Hills League amateur baseball game recently in White Lake. (Eric Mayer/Republic)

WHITE LAKE - It's been a long road to relevance for the Kimball/White Lake amateur baseball team.

But they've arrived at the top of the Pony Hills League. The Nationals are 7-1 in the Pony Hills League, with the only loss coming to perennial contender and undefeated Four Corners a week ago. With a victory tonight against South Central, KWL would match its 2015 Pony Hills win total in the league with five games remaining.

They've primarily done it with their bats, as no other team in the Pony Hills League has scored more runs than KWL. Through eight league games, the team has posted 88 runs, or 11 runs per game. That's a figure that was heavily aided by a 27-run outburst on June 9 at Armour, in which KWL won 27-12. They had more than 20 hits in the game and manager Wes Kroupa said the team has gotten stronger by adding a couple of good bats to the lineup.

"We had a couple of guys that have been good hitters for us for a few years and we've been able to move them down in the lineup because we've added Tony Poncia and Dylan Deckert. They've made our whole lineup better."

Poncia and Deckert are both former Dakota State University baseball players who were looking for a place to play this summer and they knew fellow KWL player Anthony Williams, who, like Kroupa, was a former baseball player at the University of Sioux Falls.

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"(Williams) and Tony knew each other and it just kind of worked out that they were looking for a place to play and we knew they were good players," Kroupa said. "They've fit in here well."

Williams, Kroupa and Brian Zeman - all .300 or better hitters a year ago - have helped lead the Nationals forward. Kroupa said many of the team's players have made it a habit to take good at-bats and give themselves quality hitting situations.

"We try not to overthink the hitting too much," Kroupa said. "We've got guys that will take good at-bats and will give us a chance at the plate."

On the mound, the Nationals are led by Spencer Lucas and Zeman. The left-hander and right-handed pitchers, respectively, have handled most of the starts and have made it easy for Kroupa to manage the lineup card because both pitchers have made complete games a habit.

"They're ready to pitch the whole game," he said. "I can't say one is better than the other, which is a good problem to have but they both throw pretty hard and they don't want to come out of the game."

And then there's the story of the team's nickname.

The team decided to change its nickname from Bankers to the Nationals and ordered uniforms that would represent the change, modeled after Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals. But the uniforms haven't yet arrived and the manufacturer apparently lost the order, meaning it could be a few more weeks before the Nationals replace the Bankers on the diamond.

Until then, the team - regardless of name - is managing to get it done on the field. After a number of lean years, the amateur baseball prospects are strong for KWL.

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"We've got a lot of guys that have stuck with it and to see it pay off on the field, it's a great feeling," Kroupa said.

Related Topics: KIMBALLWHITE LAKE
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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