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Youthful Dons continue to learn at Beast of the East

Andrew Grimm FOLLOW THROUGH — Madonna’s Marques Parker follows through on his swing after hitting a single during Friday afternoon’s pool play game against Highlands Legion in the 34th Beast of the East at the Edison Unified Sports Complex

RICHMOND — Sometimes a team’s goals go beyond just the wins and losses.

Such is the case for a youthful group of mostly underclassmen from Madonna competing in the 34th Beast of the East this week.

The Dons dropped two more games in the annual event on Friday, a 9-1 setback to the Ohio Bison bright and early at Vaccaro Field and a 10-1 defeat to Highlands Legion at Edison in the afternoon, but coach Jeff Baire knows the experience the youngsters are gaining against older players will pay dividends down the road.

“Absolutely this is about getting experience,” Baire said. “As much as an opportunity as it is to get guys at bats, its also a chance for guys to go out there and throw. This a great opportunity for a lot of the young guys. I’m playing a lot of freshmen that aren’t going to have a ton of opportunities (at the varsity level) when things get rolling, so this is a great opportunity for them.

“I didn’t expect to come in and win the Beast of the East … were giving some guys an opportunity to show what they can do and see what they need to work on for next year. We’re getting an opportunity to play a lot of guys and when you step back and look at the big picture, that’s very beneficial.”

Marques Parker, who was part of the Blue Dons run to the regional final during the high school season, had an RBI in the late game, while Grant Wiilharm, who played for Weir High in the spring, drove in a run in the morning game.

Even more encouraging to Baire was the way the team reacted to being down in the games, continuing to give the veteran coach quality at bats.

In the late game, the Dons got runners on second and third with one out in the fifth and final inning trying to fight to extend the game despite being down nine.

“That’s the whole thing, what are you going to show us when the adversity is there,” Baire said. “We know this is a young group, it’s exciting for where we’re going to be next year seeing some of these guys competing and not quitting.

“In the last inning of the second game we talked about not quitting, and we put guys on base and had quality at bats. This is about showing us what they can do going forward.”

David Connors and Brycen Hair, a pair of players that were freshmen this past season for the Dons, both got time on the mound in the late game against players with a lot more varsity experience. Jacob Leasure, who will be an incoming freshmen for the Madonna athletic programs next season, also impressed Baire behind the plate,as did incoming freshman Matthew Geer at third base.

“We’re seeing young guys get substantial time in and do well with it,” Baire said. “If they’re coming out and trying hard, playing hard, that’s all we can ask.

“They’re learning not to let the moment be too big for them and to have confidence. That’s going to be a big deal going forward. I’m excited about what these kids can do in the future.”

The Dons were set to have two more chances to put together a win on Saturday during the last day of pool play, as they were scheduled to face the IronPigs at Vaccaro Field and then have an all-Ohio Valley showdown with Jefferson County Post 33 on Saturday afternoon back at Edison.

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