BELOIT - Every year, the Beloit Legion team comes together to form a new identity.
This year, however, they actually have a new identity.
The Post 205 squad is now known as the Rock County River Monsters after officially merging with the former Janesville Legion post following last season.
The two squads combined for a terrific season last year before being ousted in the regional finals, and coach Rich Raisbeck said the team has gelled well together thus far.
"Whether the kids are from Janesville or Beloit, a lot of these kids grew up together playing ball," Raisbeck said. "They just want to compete and play baseball. They got together and in one practice, they were already a team. We've got to do all the right things, but they are there for one common goal."
That goal, for a Beloit squad that regularly competes for a berth in the state tournament, hasn't changed with the new moniker.
"Our goal every year is to play for a state title," Raisbeck said. "And winning during the regular season is great, but we're trying to set ourselves up best to win that regional tournament and to keep playing."
The River Monsters will field a roster of 14 players this season, and 10 of those can pitch, a rare luxury for Raisbeck.
"We've got four guys that really can give us length," Raisbeck said. "But then we've got six other kids that can come out of the bullpen and give us quality innings, too. With the way that our schedule is set up, we're going to need all those arms. I think there's a stretch in there where we play 10 games in six days, so all those guys are going to get the chance to throw."
As usual, Beloit Turner and Beloit Memorial are well-represented on the squad. Legion veteran Corbin Ovist joins Brett Kiger and Jake Raisbeck from the Purple Knights, while Cory Walker, Drew Ries and Jack Scharlau are from Turner.
Sam Nemetz is a returning college player, while Tyler Aasen is a former Evansville player.
From a lineup perspective, Raisbeck believes the squad will have no trouble scoring runs.
"I think we definitely have some power this year that we haven't seen in recent years," Raisbeck said. "Drew Ries has some pop in his bat, and so do guys like Jared Emerson from Janesville Parker and Brett Kiger. We've got a lot of guys who were all-conference players. Jake is younger, but he's got some pop in his bat, and Cory Walker can really hit the ball. Sam Nemetz is going to be a big part of our offense, and Corbin is Corbin. You know what you're getting with him. I like our bats from top to bottom. I don't see a lot of holes in the lineup, it's just a matter of putting it all together."
The ability to form a cohesive defensive unit from day one can sometimes be challenging.
"The one thing this group might not have is that really strong up-the-middle defensive combination that we've had in years past," Raisbeck said. "We've got a whole host of middle infielders that can play the spot, but there's not that obvious combo that we know we can rely on. We do have Corbin back from last year, and there are a lot of versatile guys that we think can play all over the infield."
The River Monsters will open play Tuesday night at Riverside Park in Janesville where they will take on Racine in a doubleheader that is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.
That contest sets up a challenging and busy schedule.
"We've got a tournament in Janesville coming up this weekend that begins Friday," Raisbeck said. "And we're also going up to Plover and De Pere, and we'll see really good competition in both of those spots."
The state tournament will be hosted by Chippewa Falls, and take place from July 26-30.