College Sports

SWIC is frontrunner in battle for Region 24 baseball title

The Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm heads into the home stretch of the 2015 baseball season this week in charge of its own destiny.

But that destiney comes with a few words of warning from veteran coach Neil Fiala, who recently topped the 800-win plateau in his career.

Currently 24-9 for the season and 14-5 in play in Region 24 play following a three-game sweep of Shawnee College this weekend, the Blue Storm are sitting pretty. The Blue Storm have a narrow lead in the battle for the regular season title and top-seed in the upcoming always competitive Region 24 Tournament.

But with eight games remaining, Fiala and the Blue Storm haven’t begun to celebrate anything quite yet. Their quest is far from being done. One reason is games played by the competition.

“It’s hard to say exactly because with all of the rainouts, some teams have more games left then others,” Fiala said on Monday. “Right now, we’re in first place with Lincoln Trail. Kaskaskia and John A. Logan have gotten back in the race here too recently. It’s still wide open.

“We’re playing good baseball and have been for several weeks here. But right now it just depends on who gets hot. You could win eight in a row or you could lose eight in row.”

SWIC begins its final regular season push on Tuesday when it travels to Kaskaskia College in Centralia for a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. SWIC then plays at Lincoln Trail on Thursday and then hosts Lincoln Trail in a doubleheader at noon on Saturday.

The Blue Storm concludes its season in the rugged Region 24 next week with a three game series with Lakeland College.

Making a strong run at possible Region 24 Player of the Year honors, sophomore pitcher Connor Buenger ran his scoreless innings streak to 31 with a shutout win over Shawnee on Thursday and SWIC then cruised to wins of 9-4 and 6-0 on Saturday.

Jake Daily and Dan Holst drove in two runs each to pace the Blue Storm’s win in game one, while former Belleville East standout Anthony Garza got the win, pitching 2 1/3 innings in relief. Holst and Adam Schnurbush had two RBI’s each and Ty Stahl limited Shawnee to three hits in six innings in game two as it completed the three-game sweep.

Fiala also announced on Monday that Austin Deal, a pitcher/infielder from Morrisonville and catcher/infielder Dylan McEwen from Collinsville, have signed to attend and play baseball at SWIC next season.