Legion looking ahead to state

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Angela Major/Janesville Gazette Rock County's Drew Ries has been a key figure in the River Monsters' success this season.

BELOIT - The Rock County River Monsters are taking their show on the road.

The River Monsters will be heading just north of Eau Claire this weekend, with Casper Park in Chippewa Falls the site for the Class AAA American Legion state tournament.

With a record of 23-10, Rock County advanced to the state tournament courtesy of their victory in the regional, when they defeated Madison in back-to-back games to punch their ticket.

The River Monsters will open play Friday at 5 p.m. against an 18-11 Marinette team. Other teams in the field include Oconomowoc, Appleton, Wisconsin Rapids, Oshkosh, Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls.

The top two teams advance to the Central Plains Regional Tournament, to be held in Sioux Falls, S.D. beginning Aug. 7.

"We don't really know anything about Marinette," Rock County coach Rich Raisbeck said. "So we're going in cold. We'll approach it just like we do any other game, really. We have the kind of team that can take charge and dictate the results, and hopefully that's what we do."

Although making the state tournament was the primary objective of the Monsters, Raisbeck doesn't get the sense that the team is satisfied.

"These guys are extremely motivated right now," Raisbeck said. "They are coming off two great games, and they decided they want to make a run at something, and regionals was just the beginning. I don't think they are overlooking anything, and I don't think they have all year. There is a little pep in their step, and I saw that again tonight at practice. They're excited about the opportunity to see what they can do."

Leading the way on offense for the River Monsters has been Beloit Turner's Drew Ries, who is hitting .464 with a .545 on-base percentage this summer. Ries has driven in a team-high 22 runs, and played terrific in the regionals despite suffering a badly sprained ankle the week before.

"Drew has proved that he can hit some of the best pitching around," Raisbeck said. "The guy is just getting it done. This has been a total team effort to get where we are, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Ries is a huge part of this team. He's been a great leader for us. This team doesn't get scared, and they keep battling until the last out, and he's the poster child for that."

Sam Nemetz (.402) has been a consistent hitter to go along with a team-best 13 steals, while Corbin Ovist is hitting .389 while playing a terrific shortstop.

Tyler Aasen has posted a sparkling 2.27 ERA to go along with a 5-0 record and two saves in 37 innings. Aasen pitched a complete game in Rock County's regional-clinching 11-3 win over Madison Monday night.

"He's got one of the greatest attitudes out there," Raisbeck said. "If something doesn't work the first time, his attitude is to make it work the next time. That's how he plays, and that's a winning attitude."

Casey Stone (3-3, 2.90 ERA) and Micah Overley (3-2, 4.14) will each start this weekend along with Aasen and Nemetz (2-1, 2.27) also in the mix.

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