College duo to lead Albert Lea Legion baseball team
Published 1:02 pm Saturday, June 14, 2014
Two former Big Nine All-Conference players will lead the Albert Lea Legion Post 56 baseball team this summer before they play at the college level.
Johnathan Fleek will anchor Albert Lea’s infield at shortstop, and Makael Lunning will play wherever he’s needed.
Last season, Lunning didn’t play Legion baseball because he signed with the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis to play football, and the training camp collided with the Legion baseball schedule. This year, Lunning’s summer will be spent in Albert Lea’s dugout before he goes off to play baseball at Century College in White Bear Lake.
Email newsletter signup
“There’s not any better way to get ready for baseball than by playing this summer,” Lunning said.
During his senior season at Albert Lea High School, Lunning was the Tribune’s baseball Player of the Year. He was also invited to the Minnesota All-Star Series and posted a batting average of .423.
Post 91 has played one game so far this season — an 8-3 loss at Austin — and coach Enderson said Lunning is getting into the swing of things.
“He’s got a lot of rust to shake off,” coach Enderson said. “He hasn’t seen a pitcher in a year, and he was missing the ball (at Austin), but he’ll get better. Everybody will get better.”
Lunning said he plans to play center field at Century College, but he’s not sure which position he’ll play for the Legion team.
“I’m just going to play wherever they need me,” he said. “I know Wyatt (Paulsen) was in center field for the high school team, so I think he (coach Enderson) might want to keep him there.”
Fleek, a year younger than Lunning, was the only senior on the Tigers’ roster this spring. He led Albert Lea to the Section 2AA championship game, a 9-15 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the postseason. Albert Lea was knocked out of the tournament by Glencoe-Silver Lake, the team that took third place at the Class AA state tournament.
Less than a month after the Legion season ends, Fleek will start baseball practice at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. He signed with the Panthers on Jan. 15.
With seven sophomores on the high school varsity squad, some players will take the field for the Legion and VFW, coach Enderson said.
“We’ve got five kids playing on both sides of the fence,” he said. “They’ve got to love baseball because they’re going to be playing a lot of it.”
Last season, Albert Lea combined with Austin because numbers were low, and neither team wanted to pull freshmen up from the VFW ranks.
“It’s a big step,” coach Enderson said about the transition from VFW to Legion. “The game gets a lot bigger and faster from ninth grade to seniors and college players.”
During the opener at Austin, Albert Lea used two pitchers: Chris Enderson and Tristin Muilenburg. Coach Enderson also said Fleek and Tyler Steele will be in the rotation.
“Pitching will be a challenge, but we should be solid defensively,” he said. “It comes down to pitching and availability of kids.”
Enderson and Parker Boyum will lead Post 91 from behind the plate. Parker Mullenbach, Kole Smith, E.J. Thomas and Jake Thompson also plan to contribute.
Next, Albert Lea will play a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Owatonna.
The Albert Lea VFW team is off to a blazing start with a 5-1 record. The team is coming off a 4-3 win Friday at Rochester Century.
Legion Post 91 schedule
June 12 at Austin 8-3 L
June 17 at Owatonna* 5 p.m.
June 20 at Rochester A’s 5 p.m.
June 23 Blue Earth 7 p.m.
June 24 Austin 7 p.m.
June 25 Rochester Redhawks* 6 p.m.
June 28 Albert Lea tournament 11 a.m.
July 1 Rochester A’s 7 p.m.
July 2 at Winona* 5:30 p.m.
July 7 Rochester Patriots* 6 p.m.
July 10 Waseca 7 p.m.
July 14 at Faribault* 5 p.m.
July 22 Playoffs start TBA
Home games in bold