One could almost sense the dread in Nashville Hornets baseball coach Chad Malawy's voice while being asked Monday about his team's 19-2 start.
"Don't jinx us," he joked, but the top-ranked Hornets' senior-based talent should help keep them jinx-proof for a quite a while.
"They are the backbone of the team and they are the ones that make us go," said Malawy, who has six senior regulars and 11 overall on the roster from a defending Class 2A regional champ. "They're a fun group to be around, I'm really enjoying myself this year. Sometimes when you start winning a lot the pressure builds, but I'm not really feeling it with this group.
"We're just having fun and going out trying to win each inning."
Their top hitter has been senior catcher Jordan Harre, headed to Rend Lake on a golf scholarship. Harre may want to bring his baseball equipment along to college since he's hitting .508 with 12 doubles, one home run and 28 RBIs.
The lineup includes Kaskaskia College pitcher-first baseman recruit Hunter Beetley (.382, 10 doubles, three homers, 24 RBIs; 3-1, 1.75 ERA) and Kaskaskia pitcher-shortstop recruit Keegan Anderson (.375, six doubles, two triples, two homers, nine RBIs; 5-1A 2.42 ERA).
"He's a fierce competitor," Malawy said of Anderson. "When the game's on the line he wants the ball in his hand or to be at the plate."
Also swinging big bats are senior center fielder-pitcher Kyle Jasper (.443, nine doubles, 18 RBIs), left fielder Bryce Styninger (.300, seven doubles, four homers, 27 RBIs) and third baseman-pitcher Christian Spenner (.305, one homer, 13 RBIs).
Spenner has been more than a pleasant surprise on the mound thanks to his 5-0 record and 0.75 ERA.
"We threw him out there against Althoff (a 4-0 victory) and he threw a great game, so he's really pressuring the guys ahead of him in the rotation," Malawy said.
Also stepping up has been Dylan Mueller (1-0, 0.84 ERA).
Malawy counted 11 of his baseball players who were part of Nashville's second-place finish at the recent Class 2A state basketball tournament.
Among the most significant contributors were Anderson, Beetley, Mueller and junior Daniel Thorson.
"You'd be hard pressed to find 11 varsity basketball players that are all key contributors to their varsity baseball program as well," Malawy said. "There's always two- or three-sport athletes at Nashville. Our kids see the value and the necessity and for our school to have the success, we have to have athletes playing multiple sports."
Two years ago, Nashville started 17-0 and was ranked first much of the season before losing to sixth-seeded Wesclin in the regional.
Wesclin knocked off several top-flight clubs that spring on the way to the state tournament.
There's a lot of talent in the sophomore class this season led by O'Fallon's Bradley Harrison, who is already committed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Harrison is hitting .377 in the middle of the O'Fallon lineup with two homers and 14 RBIs. O'Fallon also features sophomore first baseman Bradley Snyder, who is sitting at .405 with two triples and 11 RBIs.
They are not the only area sophomores enjoying a banner season.
Freeburg sophomore Keegan Baxmeyer and Gibault sophomore Jordan McFarland are Nos. 4 and 5 in the metro-east hitting race and are piling up some impressive numbers.
Baxmeyer is hitting .471 with two homers, eight doubles and area-leading 27 RBIs and McFarland is at .438 with an area-leading five homers and tied for third in the area with 25 RBIs.
Among the others are Edwardsville sophomore shortstop Jake Garella (.305, two triples, 16 RBIs), Belleville East catcher Drew Millas (.328, nine RBIs) and O'Fallon sophomore Camden Bauer (tied for third on the team with 12 RBIs).
Mascoutah is rolling
Mascoutah was highly touted coming into the season and at 17-2, the Indians haven't disappointed at No. 3 in the area large-school rankings.
"We've been playing pretty well, but we've still got a long way to go," Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said. "We've got good seniors and the juniors have stepped up, especially on the mound."
SIU Carbondale pitching recruit Ryan Netemeyer has been a force at the plate and on the mound, hitting .403 with nine doubles, two homers and 22 RBIs. He's also 5-0 with a 1.01 ERA as a pitcher with 35 strikeouts.
"He's been very good," Eddy said. "He's got a nice, fresh arm with good velocity. He gives us a great opportunity to win every time he's on the mound and a lot of experience, also."
Junior pitchers Noah Kraljev (2-0), Daniel Milas (2-0, 1.65 ERA). Nick Mueller (1-0, 0.86 ERA) and Austin Christ (1-1, 1.27 ERA) are also contributing.
Collin Renth (.439, two homers, 11 RBIs), Jacob Pratt (.411, 20 RBIs), and Alex Oltmann (.348, 16 RBIs) have been big run producers along with Netemeyer.