Every time senior right-hander Ryan Netemeyer takes the mound this spring, the Mascoutah Indians should have a solid chance to win the game.
The Southern Illinois University Carbondale baseball recruit and four-year starter was 6-2 last spring with a 1.93 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.
He also led the Indians with two homers, 13 doubles and 22 RBIs while hitting .313, earning first-team Belleville News-Democrat All-Area and All-Mississippi Valley Conference recognition.
Netemeyer enters his final high school season as an Under Armour Preseason All-American and the No. 42 overall prospect in Illinois according to prepbaseballreport.com.
"As he gets older, his pitch location continues to improve," Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said. "He's a veteran now. He's got a lot of experience under his belt and more movement on his fastball with better location."
Already 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA this spring and 14 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings, Netemeyer allowed one hit and tossed five scoreless innings Thursday in a 3-1 win against Belleville East.
He also was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
The Indians return a wealth of talent from a 22-15 Class 3A regional championship team that lost 2-1 in eight innings to Triad in the sectional.
Their 4-0 start included an 8-5 win over 2013 Class 2A super-sectional qualifier Carlyle in the season opener.
Seven regulars began Friday hitting .400 or higher led by senior Austin Waugh (.538, three doubles, three RBIs), junior Parker Pearman (.500, four RBIs) and junior Jeff Hightower (.500, four RBIs).
Senior second baseman Jacob Pratt (.400) has three doubles, two triples and five RBIs and senior infielder-pitcher Alex Oltmann has two doubles, a triple and six RBIs.
"Our expectation was to be pretty competitive every day no matter who we've played," Eddy said. "So far they've had a really good attitude about practice and games. They show up every day to work and get better."
Even when it snows, as it did for more than an hour Monday during a 10-5 victory at Centralia.
"It snowed almost the whole game," Eddy said.
The pitching staff includes Netemeyer, Oltmann (2-2, 1.81 ERA), Waugh (2-1, 2.00 ERA) and juniors Daniel Milas, Noah Kraljev, Nick Mueller and Connor Waltsgott.
Eddy said another pitcher, 6-foot, 5-inch junior Austin Christ, is waiting to be cleared after undergoing knee surgery.
"We've got three senior arms and five solid junior arms," Eddy said. "Early in the year we're giving them all an opportunity to win that big No. 2 spot to go through our conference season."
Oltmann and Milas may have the inside track, but the Indians have so much depth that Oltmann has yet to throw a pitch in a game.
Netemeyer will play short when he's not pitching.
Senior Collin Renth (.309, eight RBIs) is at first with Oltmann (.302, eight doubles, 10 RBIs) at short and third. Waugh (.307, nine doubles, three triples, 18 RBIs) returns at catcher while Hightower can be used at catcher, in the outfield or designated hitter.
Pratt (.273, six RBIs) returns at second, with Pearman in right and senior Mike Biekert (.213, 11 RBIs) in center.
Eddy doesn't believe there is a single front-runner in the MVC this spring.
"It's always a very, very competitive conference and we plan to be right in the middle of that competition," Eddy said. "I hoped we'd have a pretty solid lineup and so far we have."