Edwardsville High School baseball coach Tim Funkhouser played at Western Illinois University, so he never discourages his players from considering the Division I program he once called home.
Western Illinois took advantage of that strong connection recently when it picked up a verbal commitment from Edwardsville shortstop Jordan Heckler.
Heckler is hitting .329 with seven doubles, two homers and 18 RBIs for the Tigers. The two-year varsity starter is also second on the team with 24 runs scored.
"I think he offers a lot of versatility in that he has does have baseball instincts," Funkhouser said of Heckler, who also had interest from Lindenwood-St. Charles and several junior colleges. "He can bunt, he can hit and run and has an above-average ability to run the bases. As he continues to hone his skills he's going to be a definite asset for any club.
"He's worked extremely hard and he's been one of the players that has a lot of people intrigued."
Heckler, a senior, was impressed with WIU's program and new coach Ryan Brownlee, a longtime Iowa assistant and the son of former University of Evansville coach Jim Brownlee.
"It was a real good fit for me," Heckler said. "He came and watched me play and asked me to come on a visit. The school and the program was really nice, exactly what we were hoping for."
When Funkhouser was still coaching at Triad, he sent another top-notch player to WIU in Ryan Langdon.
Edwardsville also has St. Louis University recruit Drew Curtis (first baseman-pitcher), Southwestern Illinois College recruit Zack Sparks (pitcher) and Heartland College recruit Blake Graham (outfielder).
Brownlee, was hired as the Leathernecks' coach last fall.
"He can play shortstop, he's played some second base in the past and has responded awfully well," Funkhouser said. "He's continued to fight for consistency and he's improved in all facets of the game. His ability to play the middle infield really helps and his bat is very solid."
Opel featured on ESPN
University of Missouri right fielder and Edwardsville High graduate Dane Opel got himself onto the No. 1 spot on ESPN Sportscenter's Top 10 Plays Saturday with a leaping grab to rob Texas A&M's Troy Stein of a home run.
To see a video of the catch, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SbkIoz8GXc&feature=youtu.be.
Opel made the catch while nearly falling over the right-field wall. He managed to keep himself balanced before holding his glove aloft for all to see the home-run robbery was complete.
Texas A&M won the game 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Opel is hitting .299 for the 15-28 Tigers with three homers and a team-leading 24 RBIs.