While the Althoff Crusaders return a decent amount of baseball experience this spring, look for that experience to be enhanced by a potentially strong group of freshman pushing for varsity playing time.
Six freshmen played Thursday in Althoff’s 2017 debut, a 6-4 win over Marissa.
“They made some young kid mistakes, but they were aggressive mistakes you could live with,” said Althoff coach and former major-league pitcher Randy Wells, whose team finished 17-13 last season after losing to Wesclin in the Class 2A regional championship. “They weren’t hesitation mistakes. They were physical errors, which I can deal with.
“One of our strengths is our youth, and we’ve got some good baseball players that are young and are going to learn.”
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Wells admitted his first season as a varsity head coach in 2016 was a learning experience.
“It was a challenge,” Wells said. “I came into it with a little too much of a full head of steam, thinking I had everything figured out. I definitely got humbled in that regard. A lot of it was just me learning to deal with high school kids again.
“It was fun, and I thought we did OK based on what we had and what we had returning. We played some really good ball early and kind of tailed off at the end.”
The Althoff baseball coaching staff now includes two former major-league pitchers with the addition of pitching coach Jason Boyd. The Edwardsville graduate and 1994 eighth-round draft pick out of John A. Logan junior college pitched with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians from 1999 to 2004.
Among the top returning players are senior center fielder Trey Mosley, junior third baseman-pitcher Jack Ysursa, sophomore catcher Jack Toenjes, senior pitcher-infielder Gavin Strieker and junior shortstop Matt Schroeder.
Other first base candidates include seniors Sam Fitch and James Simoneaux, while a familiar basketball name to Crusaders fans, senior Marvin Bateman, is back out for baseball as a pitcher.
Juniors Anthony Dawson and Jared Rainey are also in the mix as pitchers and outfielders.
Pushing hard for varsity playing time among the freshmen are first baseman Connor Sheehan, pitcher-outfielders Josh Dima and Josh Krneta and catcher-third baseman Jack Bruening,
Dima and Krneta can pitch, as can Peyton Whitehead. Another freshman, Cody Bauer, plays second base.
“We’re going to play the best nine that day that matches up against the other teams,” Wells said. “With these pitch-count rules we’re going to have to get everybody in there, so it’s going to be a challenge. Some young kids are going to have to be thrown into the fire early.
“We’re going to see what we’ve got, and we’re investing in the future. Hopefully we can get something going over here.”