Prep Baseball & Softball

June 24, 2014

O'Fallon's Deatherage earns Player of the Year honors

It certainly wasn't mapped out this way before the season began, but the similarities between the two Belleville News-Democrat Baseball Players of the Year are downright eerie.

Large-School (Class 3A-4A) Player of the Year Blake Deatherage frmo O'Fallon starred as a pitcher and position player, lost only in his final appearance of the season, was chosen to play in the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase at Busch Stadium and is headed to McKendree University as a pitcher.

That's the same credentials shared by Small-School (Class 1A-2A) Player of the Year Nick Yung from Freeburg.

"We went to a few showcases together and played in the all-star game (at Busch Stadium) together," said Deatherage, whose pitching and hitting exploits earned him Player of the Year honors in voting by metro-east coaches. "I can't wait to go to McKendree and pitch with him."

The 6-foot-1 165-pound right-hander won 11 straight decisions before suffering his first loss in the Class 4A Belleville East Regional semifinals against Belleville West.

Deatherage finished 11-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings. He allowed only 19 runs (12 earned) in 18 appearances and 12 starts.

His 11 victories tied Vianney's Jake Hemphill (11-1) for the St. Louis area lead.

Deatherage played center field when he wasn't pitching and led the Panthers with a .453 average and 39 RBIs. He collected seven doubles and two triples among his 48 hits.

"It just seemed like every time we needed a big hit in a game, Blake was the kid that came up with it," O'Fallon coach Jason Portz said. "When we needed somebody to step up for us on the mound and take the ball, Blake was that guy."

Despite all those accomplishments, Deatherage was still shocked to hear he was the BND Player of the Year.

"It never even crossed my mind," he said. "It definitely caught me off guard. I'm just thanking God and thanking my family and all the coaches that led me to this point."

One of those coaches is Portz, who couldn't have been more proud of his two-way standout.

"Now that I've had a chance to go back and look at Blake's numbers, what is definitely most surprising is his ability to continuously come through with runners in scoring position behind (the player) most people thought was our best hitter, Jeff Hahs," Portz said. "That's as good an offensive season as we've had a player put up since (Nick) Tindall and (Nick) Johnson and some of those guys."

Portz said Deatherage is a prime example of someone who relied on his own abilities, took advantage of his opportunities and pushed himself to the limit.

"There's nothing about Blake -- and I think he likes it that way -- that's imposing," Portz said. "He's happy in his own skin and happy with his life. When you get to know him, he's a kid that's really strong in his faith and very appreciative of the people that help him."

One of those was longtime O'Fallon pitching coach Nick Seibert.

"When I first came to O'Fallon I wasn't much of a pitcher, I was more of a thrower," said Deatherage, who transferred to O'Fallon after two seasons at Belleville East. "He coached me on everything I do and pretty much every win I get goes to him. He's the guy that taught me everything the last two years."

Deatherage said that as a former standout pitcher at Edwardsville High and in college, Seibert created an instant bond with the mound staff.

"Being a state champion himself, he knew what I wanted to try to be," Deatherage said. "He knew what was going on in our minds and stepping down from a coach's standpoint to our level made it easier to understand."

Portz alluded to O'Fallon opponents trying to pitch around the Panthers' 3-4 hitters Bradley Harrison and Hahs by working to Deatherage.

It was a plan that Deatherage enjoyed ruining more often than not.

"In our first conference game against Collinsville and Tanner Houck, we were down and I got an RBI double off him to put us on top," Deatherage said. "I got that RBI and it was just awesome. That's when it started clicking even more for me offensively.

"Maybe there's two outs and a 3-2 count and a runner on second so I could get a base hit. I loved being put in those situations."

One of the marks of a talented player on the high school level is making a dramatic jump from season to season.

Deatherage raised his batting average and RBIs from .316 and 18 as a junior to .453 and 39 as a senior.

As a junior pitcher at O'Fallon, Deatherage was 6-1 with a 2.76 ERA. He jumped to 11-1 as a senior and lowered his ERA to 1.24.

"I just wanted to be better than I was as a junior," Deatherage said. "I thought now was my time to step up and be the leader of the team and show everybody what I was capable of."

Deatherage figured he might only be pitching this season until Portz told him to count on outfield duty as well

"I was getting hits and RBIs like crazy the first two weeks and that helped out tremendously," Deatherage said. "I feel like that boosted my confidence with my pitching as well."

Eddy is Coach of the Year

While he would like to have gotten his team to the state tournament, Mascoutah High coach Don Eddy maximized the talent he had this season with an experienced Indians club.

As a result, area coaches voted him News-Democrat Class 3A-4A Coach of the Year

Mascoutah (32-7) won the Mississippi Valley Conference as well as regional and sectional titles before falling 5-2 to eventual Class 3A runner-up Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin on a seventh-inning homer in the Sauget Super-Sectional.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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