Southwestern Illinois College baseball coach Neil Fiala is a firm believer that a team can never have to many catchers. And so to prove his point, Fiala went out and signed two of the best in Southern Illinois as part of the Blue Storm’s 2016-17 recruiting class.
Fiala announced last week that Valmeyer senior Mark Nappier and versatile Freeburg senior Keegan Baxmeyer are among 13 players who will join the Blue Storm program beginning in August.
A solid defensive catcher, Nappier is one of the top offensive players in the St. Louis area. The Pirates senior currently leads the entire St. Louis area with 49 RBI and his 10 home runs are second behind only Jake Matheny of Westminister Christian Academy in St. Louis. Matheny, the son of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, has 11 homers.
Baxmeyer is also having a banner season as he is hitting .400 with four home runs and 32 RBI for a Midgets squad that is 22-8.
“They are both having very good years. I know Baxmeyer got injured playing football in the fall and has also been a designated hitter this year, but he’s a good athlete as is Nappier,” Fiala said. “It’s a different level when you get to college and you are seeing good pitching each at bat and there is a period of adjustment.
“But you can never have enough good catchers. This year, John A. Logan went into the region tournament ranked ninth in the nation and as the top seed. What happens is that both of their catchers get hurt and they have to bring in a redshirt freshman and got beat in the first round. With the number of double-headers we play, they’ll both have a chance to play. But they can also play other positions.”
Infield help, speed on the way
While Nappier and Baxmeyer will help both on offense and defense, Fiala also signed infielders Cal Kossina from Belleville West and the very speedy Adam Alexander from Carlyle and Chance Foss from Roxana.
Together, Alexander and Foss have a combined 60 stolen bases and if they can get on base could be keys at the top of the order at the college level. Alexander, who hit .276 for Carlyle, has 39 stolen bases and Foss, who hit .293 has 21 stolen bases.
Like Baxmeyer and Nappier, Kossina could be a gem for the Blue Storm during the next two years. Currently fifth in the St. Louis area with a .547 average, Kossina has also been a solid pitcher with a 5-2 record.
“We’re looking at him as more of a position player. Cal is hitting .547 and is one of the top hitters in the area so we’re hoping he’ll come in help offensively,“ Fiala said. “He’s one of those kids who can play different positions and someone we may give a look to as a pitcher if need be.”
Rakers in the outfield
Mater Dei standout Brady Rakers has signed with the Blue Storm. Rakers hit .405 with a home run and 19 RBI this past season while Lutheran North standout Ethan Wallace (.289, 1 home run 22 RBI) and Zach Harris from Columbia (Mo.) Hickman High School will also add depth in the SWIC outfield.
Fiala also has high hopes for four pitchers including 6-foot-3, 180-pound Masen Palmier from Parkway South and recent Althoff graduate Rorey Keen.
Palmier finished 2-3 this past season but had 28 strikeouts and just five walks in 30 innings to go along with a 1.72 ERA. Keen was 3-3 with a 2.52 ERA with the Crusaders this season.
Also signing were Justin Evers (6-4, 210 pounds) from De Smet High School and Jacob Launius from Parkway South. Both are schools in St. Louis County.