The Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm opens the 2017 baseball season Saturday at Three Rivers Community College with coach Neil Fiala already concerned about the depth of his pitching staff.
The Blue Storm return former Parkway South (Mo.) ace Dylan Jones and Fiala is high on freshman Noah Thaggard from Waterloo. But after losing four pitchers — including three to season-ending injuries — Fiala is concerned about SWIC’s lack of depth on the mound.
“Position player wise, we’re very good. Pitching wise, we’re very thin. That’s it,” Fiala said. “We’re going to need some guys who pitched in high school to give us some innings in relief. We’re just going to have to make do.”
SWIC is coming off a disappointing 2016 season when it finished with a 25-27 record. But with plenty of offense returning along with a solid defensive unit, SWIC could be a contender in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
“I think we’ll score some runs. We’ve got good speed and guys who can really hit the baseball,” Fiala said. “Last year were really good some days and really bad others. It was tough to get any momentum because we were just so inconsistent.”
Other pitchers Fiala hopes will help SWIC content are redshirt freshman Dan Milas (Mascoutah High School), former Parkway South (Mo.) hurlers Jacob Mertz and Jacob Launius, Brandon Contratto (New Athens) and former Althoff pitchers Rorey Keen and Ben Hankammer.
“We will see what we have after this weekend when we play a few games. We have 16-17 games before we start in the conference and so these guys will get a chance to show what they can do.”
Blue Storm offense
SWIC returns two top catchers in sophomores Dylan McEwen (Collinsville) and Jake Wilson (Belleville West). Offensive-minded freshmen Keegan Baxmeyer (Freeburg) and Mark Nappier (Valmeyer) could also see playing time behind the plate.
The left side of the Blue Storm infield includes former Belleville West teammates Kossina playing third base and sophomore Matt Klosterman returning for his second season as the Blue Storm shortstop. Klosterman batted .336 for the Blue Storm a year ago.
Sophomore Adam Dalton (.356) will man second base while Ray Adams hit .311 with 23 RBI a year ago at first base. Mitchell Krebs, a redshirt freshman who played at Edwardsville High School, will also get playing time in the Blue Storm infield,
Outfielders Keith Sanders (Chicago Simeon) and Derrick Rozycke (Freeburg) will be joined by Ethan Wallace (Lutheran North), Zach Harris (Columbia, Mo. Hickman) Dustin Kuehnel (Granite City) and Brady Rakers (Mater Dei).