In his final two years as a member of the Valmeyer High School baseball program Cole Juelfs accomplished nearly everything he set out to do.
Last month, Valmeyer again came up a win shy of an IHSA Class 1A state championship with a 5-1 loss to Aurora Christian. It was the second year in a row the Pirates’ season ended at Peoria’s Dozer Park.
“Early in the season we had a team meeting to discuss what our goals would be. The goals were to win over 30 games and the state championship,’’ Juelfs said recently. “All of that hard work we put in and to come just short of a state championship ... It was very disappointing.
“We were younger last year. This year we had seven or eight seniors and we had played together for a long time. We played a tougher schedule and I felt we came together this season. To finish second again .... It was tough to take.’’
Headed to Southwestern Illinois College beginning next month where he will be a member of the Blue Storm baseball program, Juelfs did his part to make the Pirates a state contender. A two-way standout, Juelfs finished his senior season with a .382 batting average and 21 RBI.
As a pitcher on a deep and talented Valmeyer staff, Juelfs finished 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA. Voted as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Player of the Year, Juelfs won 11 of his 13 decisions during his final two years as a member of the Pirates’ pitching staff.
A four-year standout for coach Greg Reinhardt’s Pirates squad, Juelfs batted .274 and 292 his first two seasons and drove in over 20 runs both years. But following his sophomore year, Juelfs went to a former Monroe County baseball standout Jeremiah Bergheger, a star at Gibault High School.
“I have played baseball for a long time. My dad played and when I was younger we would always be out playing or he would throw batting practice to me,’’ Juelfs said. “I played my first two years of high school but after my sophomore year I wasn’t happy with my swing and so I started going to and working with Jeremiah. He has really helped me a great deal.’’
After batting .429 as a junior, Juelfs enjoyed another solid season at Valmeyer this spring. Bating leadoff, the 6-foot 180-pound Juelfs was a catalyst on offense, while also playing a solid shortstop when he wasn’t pitching
“Cole has meant so much to the Valmeyer HS Baseball program over the last four years. From getting the complete game win on the mound to clinch the first regional championship since 1971 as a sophomore to leading the whole St. Louis area in runs scored as a senior, it is very fitting he is Player of the Year ... so deserving,’’ Reinhardt said. “He has been a fixture up the middle on defense at shortstop and will be deeply missed.’’
With several of the top Class 1A hitters in southern Illinois batting behind him in the Pirates order, Juelfs knew his job was to get on base. A four-sport athlete who also competed on the Valmeyer basketball, soccer and golf teams, Juelfs led the entire St. Louis area in in runs scored with 55.
“I was a lot more patient at the plate this year.,’’ Juelfs said. “When I was younger, I was apt to swing at some bad pitches. But batting leadoff again my job was to get on base and get the offense going. We had a lot of good hitters in our lineup, and I needed to get on base and give them a chance to drive me in. I was able to do that.’’
Unfortunately for the Pirates scoring chance were few and far between in the state title game. With ace Philip Reinhart on the mound, Valmeyer fell behind early and could do little against Aurora ace Jake Kuntzendorf.
“We felt good about our chances. We had our No. 1 pitcher against their best pitcher and even when we fell behind I think we all thought that the second time through the batting order that we would be able to get to him,’’ Juelfs said. “Their pitcher was good and he was able to shut us down.’’
Juelfs hopes to move on from SWIC to play at a four-year school and major in criminal justice with the goal of becoming a police officer.