EUREKA – Not since 2003 has Eureka won a conference championship on the baseball diamond. Back then, the Hornets were members of the Tri-County Conference and one of their assistants is current head coach Dane Wear.
With eight starters returning, Eureka is in position to sit on top of the Heart of Illinois Conference mountain.
“I like our athleticism, I like our abilities that we have,” stated Wear, who begins his 13th season with the Hornets with a record of 220-183-3.
Eureka will try to unseat Tremont (25-8, 11-1), who won the league’s regular season and tournament titles. Wear views the Turks, Deer Creek-Mackinaw, El Paso-Gridley and Tri-Valley as other top teams.
The Hornets (19-14), who lost 8-5 in a regional final to host EP-G, graduated first team HOIC choice in third base-pitcher Matt Hoelscher (30 runs batted in, 6-2, 1.38 earned run average), but the rest of the cast is in place. That includes senior shortstop-pitcher Andrew Streit (5-4, 2.20 ERA, 45 strikeouts), junior shortstop-pitcher Brady Krile (5-2) and junior catcher Daniel Frank, who drove in a team-high 32 RBIs. As a team, Eureka scored 185 runs (5.6 per game).
“We have a lot of guys who will be able to scrap some tough at-bats,” Wear said. “We’re not a power-hitting team, but we’re smart hitters.”
Also back is senior left fielder Mike Mangold, a quartet of juniors in Austin Davis (second base), Adam Anderson (second, third), Aaron Schwab (center) and Keegan Zimmerman (first) along with sophomore Zac Messer, who can play in the outfield, catch and pitch.
Those returnees should make the Hornets an above average defensive team.
“We’ve got a lot of guys to play different spots,” commented Wear. “The high school’s Rubik’s cube where we do make the moves I do not view us being any weaker.”
Eureka boasts two potential aces on the mound in Streit, who signed a letter of intent three weeks ago to pitch for Marian University in Indianapolis, Ind., and Krile.
“We have more pitching depth than we’ve had in years,” claimed Wear. “If we can get all the guys to throw strikes, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
As a staff, the Hornets surrendered 176 runs in ‘17 (5.2 per game).
The season and home opener scheduled for today with Princeville at the middle school has been cancelled. The remainder of the schedule is as follows (all games will start @ 4:30 p.m. unless indicated & all home dates @ the middle school):
Thursday: vs. Peoria Heights
Friday: vs. Putnam County @ Granville’s Ken Jenkins Field
Saturday: vs. Brimfield/Elmwood, 1 & vs. Dunlap, 4 p.m.
Monday: @ Olympia
March 20: vs. Central Catholic
March 22: vs. Midwest Central @ Manito
March 23: vs. Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland
March 24: @ Lincoln (doubleheader), 11 a.m.
March 27: vs. Illinois Valley Central
March 31: vs. Peoria Christian (DH), 10 a.m. @ Woodruff Field
April 2: vs. Heyworth*
April 4: vs. Fieldcrest*
April 5: @ Roanoke-Benson
April 6: vs. Illini Bluffs @ Glasford
April 9: vs. Tri-Valley* @ Downs
April 11: vs. Blue Ridge* @ Farmer City’s South Park
April 13: vs. Ridgeview*
April 14: vs. East Peoria (DH), 10 a.m.
April 16: @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*
April 18: @ Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley*
April 20: vs. EP-G* @ South Pointe Park
April 21: noon vs. Spring Valley Hall & 2 p.m. vs Tremont, both @ Tremont
April 23: vs. Fisher*
April 25: vs. Tremont*
April 27: vs. LeRoy*
April 30: @ Lexington*
May 4: vs. Farmington
May 9: vs. Prairie Central @ Fairbury
May 12: HOIC Showcase at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jack Horenberger Field, Bloomington
May 14-19: Regional
Notes: The league’s showcase will replace the HOIC tournament. Eureka has advanced to a regional final in each of the past five seasons, hoisting up a plaque on three occasions. They were a perfect 5-0 in games decided by one run in ’17. Lincoln and SVH are new to the schedule, while Mahomet-Seymour is off. T-V (22) was the other HOIC team to exceed 20 wins last spring. Streit is dealing with soreness in his left knee.