EUREKA – Seven players departed the Eureka program via graduation.
However, 10 juniors are back in the fold, which should bode well for the Hornets.
“Every year, when you get into a situation where kids graduate, you have to have the next crew step up,” explained Eureka head coach Dane Wear. “It’s time for the juniors to shine. It’s a very talented group. We have some key guys coming back.”
The Hornets posted a 25-8 record in 2019, as they lost 11-6 in the Farmington Sectional final to Brimfield/Elmwood (27-6), who also ended their ’18 season. Among those who used up his eligibility is shortstop/pitcher Brady Krile (11-0 record, 0.43 earned run average, 113 strikeouts), who was named all-state by the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association, fellow first team Heart of Illinois Conference choices in catcher Daniel Frank (20 runs batted in, two-time first teamer) and second baseman Austin Davis (24 RBIs). Also gone are center fielder/pitcher Aaron Schwab (5-2), Keegan Zimmerman (first base, 29 RBIs) and third sacker/pitcher Adam Anderson (26 RBIs, 3-1).
One of the 10 juniors back is outfielder/pitcher Matt Martin, who was voted to the league’s first team. He is joined by classmate and outfielder Colby Blunier (20 RBIs) and shortstop Griffin Punke. A pair of seniors returns in outfielder/pitcher Zac Messer and pitcher Garrett Peterson.
The Hornets graduated a lot of run production, as they amassed 250 last spring, which translated to over seven and a half runs per contest. They failed to score in just two of 33 games.
“From what I’ve been so far, I’m not sure the offense will slide off that much,” pointed out Wear, who enters his 15th season at the helm with a record 268-196-4. “One of their M.O.’s (motus operandi) is they hit on the sophomore level. Offensively, I think we’ll be ok.”
While Krile and Schwab will no longer toe the slab, the cupboard is not bare. As a staff, the Hornets yielded just 101 runs and blanked eight opponents.
“We’ve got in our program some really good established arms,” Wear said. “We have some other quality guys,”
Messer, Martin and Peterson should all see innings along with junior Sheldon Guevens.
According to Wear, Eureka’s defense should stay sound.
“Once they gotten together, they’ve played very well,” he assessed. “I have a nice mix. It’s a matter of getting back in sync once this layoff ends.”
Tremont (20-9) and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley tied for the top spot in the HOIC with identical 10-1 records.
“I think the top few will be there. There’s a lot of good baseball in the conference,” said Wear, whose squad should be in the hunt.
He also rattled off Tremont, Fieldcrest, Le Roy and Tri-Valley.
With schools now closed through April 7, the remainder of the schedule appears below (all games start @ 4:30 p.m. unless indicated & all home contests @ the middle school):
April 8: versus Fieldcrest*
April 10: vs. Illini Bluffs @ Glasford
April 13: vs. T-V* @ Downs
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April 17: vs. Ridgeview*
April 18: vs. East Peoria, (doubleheader), 10 a.m.
April 20: @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*
April 22: @ GCMS *
April 24: vs. El Paso-Gridley* @ South Pointe Park
April 27: vs. Fisher*
April 29: vs. Tremont*
May 1: vs. Le Roy*
May 2: vs. Rockridge, (DH), 10 a.m.
May 4: @ Lexington*
May 5: vs. Annawan/Wethersfield @ Peoria’s Dozer Park, 6 p.m.
May 8: vs, Farmington
May 9: vs. Monmouth-Roseville, (DH), 10 a.m.
May 11: vs. Central Catholic @ Bloomington’s McGraw Park
May 13: vs. Pontiac, 3:30 p.m.
May 14: vs. Prairie Central @ Fairbury
May 16: HOIC Showcase @ Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jack Horenberger Field, Bloomington
May 18-23: Regional
Notes: The twinbill with M-R along with A/W and Pontiac are new to the schedule, while B/E and Dunlap are off. Eureka has posted five seasons of 20 or more victories in the past seven. Le Roy won 23 games last season. Krile tied Ben Zobrist (’00) for the most wins in a season and was two strikeouts shy of the standard set by Ryan Eigsti in ’02.
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