ALTAMONT — Fresh off a fourth-place finish in the Junior Legion state tournament, eyes are already turning to next season around Altamont Post 512.
Altamont will return 13 of its players from this year's squad, including much of its pitching staff, and are poised to make another run next summer.
However, they'll be without the man who started it all.
Coach Jeff Fritchtnitch said Monday night's season-ending 7-3 loss to Danville Post 210 would also serve as his last game at the helm of Post 512, a program he built from the ground up beginning four years ago.
"It's been a pleasure coaching them. This is tough on me, because this is it," he said.
Fritchtnitch moved to the area when he became the superintendent in Altamont, and while the area had a travel team for 13-year-olds and younger, Altamont had no Legion team to call home.
During the summers, the local high school players would scatter to the surrounding areas for Legion ball, with the majority heading to Effingham, Fritchtnitch said.
But he saw the void in his own backyard, and built the team four years ago to strengthen the community and the Altamont Indians teams come fall and spring. He capitalized on previous coaching experience in both football and track.
"When I got into the superintendency, I didn't think I was ever going to coach again," he said. "There really wasn't a good lower-level baseball program. So many of the kids in Altamont were going and playing city ball at Effingham, which was good, but then they're playing all on different teams and they never had that cohesiveness."
The team's strength has come from the players who were there during the 13U days, culminating in Monday night's accomplishments.
"You get guys like Aaron (Goeckner), my boy Caleb (Fritchtnitch), my stepson Cole (Borders), and Brandon Helmuth. They built this thing up. Everybody but Brandon played with me when we moved to Altamont on the 13 and under travel team," Fritchtnitch said. "Those three, they're the ones that have stayed with it."
He'll go out at the highest height Post 512 has ever reached, taking fourth in the state tournament.
Four years ago, in their first season, Post 512 was bounced in the first round of the district tournament, dropping back-to-back games in the double elimination format.
The reins will be turned over to current assistant coaches Alan Whitt and Charlie Miller during 2014.
"They're going to carry this thing on, they're going to keep it going and they're excellent. They have good baseball minds, we've found ways to do things a little bit different with different kids over the years.
In the meantime, the members of Altamont Post 512 are preparing for the fall baseball season, with players like Nick Miller, Aaron Goeckner, Klaiton Wolff and Devon Guerrettaz looking to carry over their experience to an Altamont team that made the regional finals in May.
Brandon Helmuth will head back to Windsor/Stew-Stras, where he started for the co-op in its first season. The Blue Devils made the Class 1A Super-Sectionals and should battle with St. Anthony and Altamont for an NTC crown.
While the players are undoubtedly excited for their fall seasons, the now-former Legion coach can't help but look further into the future.
"I don't want to be too cocky or too arrogant, but look out for Altamont again next year, because they're going to be pretty salty," Fritchtnitch said.