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Lions 9 has roared into first season

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | April 13, 2023 11:55 PM

There are some understandable and ongoing concerns from American Legion coaches about the addition of baseball as a Montana High School Association-sanctioned sport this spring.

But back in January of 2022, when a pair of Eureka graduates heard high school baseball was coming, it was difficult for them to contain their excitement.

Ryan Holder, Class of 2012, and Colter Comstock, Class of 2004, are back teaching and coaching at their alma mater. They’re also co-coaches of the baseball Lions who are. … (checks notes) 5-0 in their inaugural season.

“We’ve got a good group of core boys that played Legion, and a good group of younger kids,” Holder said this week. “So it’s been fun.”

The hot start is thanks partly to playing schools like Troy, Plains and Browning, that don’t have the feeder or Legion programs, at least so far.

On the other hand the Lions beat Mission — which feeds the Mission Valley Mariners Legion team along with Polson and Ronan — 18-0 on April 7.

Four days later Eureka went into Columbia Falls, part of the potent Glacier Twins Legion program, and left with a 12-5 win.

The victories are enjoyable, but the coaches are more encouraged by the turnout. Including two eighth-graders, 20 boys came out for baseball (26 originally signed up). One, AJ Truman, homered against Mission and had three hits and drove in five runs against Columbia Falls.

“Eight or nine haven’t played since Little League, or even played at all,” Holder said. “I think that’s really a positive benefit. There are five returning Legion players from last year’s Kootenai Rangers, and three that played Babe Ruth or on travel teams.”

Ah yes, the Rangers: Eureka’s Legion team came about in 1998 with Terry Comstock (Colter’s dad) and Jim Henry as coaches. They play at the Class B level, and numbers have been a challenge through the summers, though school enrollment has stayed around 280.

“The school is about the same size it was when I was in high school,” Colter Comstock noted. “And when I was in high school we had five Babe Ruth teams. Now we have one.”

The hope is that the strong turnout this spring will only help interest in the American Pastime.

“I like it because I feel like more kids are going to come out for baseball, and continue to stay out,” Comstock said. He envisions Eureka playing several more high schools its size, and competing on a more level playing field than when the Rangers take on the Glacier Twins and A Kalispell Lakers.

The Lions were rained out of Florence earlier; a pair of games with Polson are on the schedule. Whitefish, which lost to Butte 10-2 Thursday, comes across to play at Eureka Friday.

That will be a test, but Holder — he played baseball for a time at Miles Community College before a shoulder injury ended that chapter — is fine with that. Let’s play two.

“It was just nice to see all these towns who haven’t had Legion baseball get these teams together,” Holder said. As for those towns that do have Legion, Holder has high hopes for them, too.

“I don’t think this hurts the numbers,” he said. “In time, I hope it helps.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.

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