ROANOKE – Another member of the Tri-County Conference is exiting in just over two months, as Peoria Christian heads to the Inter County Athletic Conference (ICAC). The Chargers are following a similar path that Bureau Valley, Peru St. Bede and Spring Valley Hall blazed before them.
While it will not count in the league standings, this will not be the swan song as it relates to Peoria Christian and Roanoke-Benson/Lowpoint-Washburn meeting on the diamond.
“We’re still going to schedule them,” pointed our co-op head coach Wade Hunter. “It stinks because it’s a quality conference team. It’s not about winning games. It’s about camaraderie. I have a good relationship with (Coach) Jason (Miller).”
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is chasing Ottawa Marquette (33-1, 14-0), who won the title for the sixth consecutive season on their way to the one A championship. They won the race by four and a half games.
“I think we’ll give Marquette a fight. We’ll be competitive. We always have been,” commented Hunter, who is in his sixth year in the Rockets’ dugout with a record of 72-76.
RBLW graduated a trio of players including first team league pick in first sacker Ben Monge (.403 average, 24 runs batted in), catcher Jarrett Bline and infielder Jake Weber from a 13-16 team that lost 6-5 to guest Peoria Heights in the regional at Bill Zeman Field.
Among the returnees is senior outfielder/pitcher Jack Weber (5-4), senior twins and outfielders Jacob and Logan Nix, senior outfielder Carter Sauder, senior infielder Jason Tallyn, senior infielder/outfielder Brock Martin and sophomore infielder Chase Martin. The Rockets scored 173 runs a season ago, an average of six per contest.
“I hope to be around there. Most coaches would,” said Hunter. “I’d like to think we’ll have more opportunities. Last year, I had higher hopes as far as the offense went.”
Southpaw Jack Weber will headline the pitching staff, which could see as many as seven on the mound. As a staff, they permitted 190 runs.
“With our schedule, seven or eight,” Hunter said. “Trent (Monge) and I did a good job the last four years. We’ve done a good job of producing good arms. We have not had too many sore arms. They’re throwing strikes for the most part.”
Hunter sees the last line defense as the strength.
“I feel pretty good about the outfield. I have (some) guys returning,” said Hunter. “It’s going to be a slow start. We’re going to make due with moving guys around.”
With every school closed through April 7, games will follow suit. The remainder of the schedule appears below (all games start @ 4:30 p.m. unless indicated & all home contests @ BZF:
April 9: @ Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland*
April 14: versus Peoria Ch.* @ Woodruff Field
April 16: vs. Peoria Ch.*
April 17: @ Heyworth
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April 18: vs. Blue Ridge @ Farmer City’s South Park, 10 a.m.
April 20: vs. Le Roy
April 21: vs. Midland*
April 23: @ Midland*
April 24: @ Dwight
April 28: vs. OM*
April 30: vs. OM* @ Ottawa’s Masinelli Field
May 1: vs. Illinois Valley Central
May 2: vs. Deer Creek-Mackinaw
May 5: vs. Putnam Co.* @ Granville’s Ken Jenkins Field
May 7: vs. Putnam Co.*
May 9: vs. Ridgeview @ Colfax, 10 a.m.
May 11: vs. Henry* @ Bob Newell Field
May 12: vs. Henry*
May 14: @ PH
May 18-23: Regional
Notes: Once again, there will be no players from L-W. BR is new to the schedule. Matt Wehking replaces the elder Monge as assistant coach. Both of the Nix twins, C. Martin, Tallyn and Jack Weber will transition from the basketball court to the diamond. OM will enter the campaign on a 17-game winning streak.
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