Easton Wallace had his finger prints all over the Valmeyer High School baseball team’s historic playoff run that ended Saturday with a second-place finish in Class 1A.
Still, he wasn’t so sure that he had all-state credentials.
“One of my teammates — Phillip Reinhardt — told me the all-state list was coming out this week and that I was going to make it,” said Wallace, who learned of his selection when the list came out late Wednesday. “I said ‘I don’t know.’”
Coach Greg Reinhardt had little doubt.
In 22 seasons in a dugout — first at Kewanee-Wethersefield then Valmeyer —Reinhardt has managed three all-staters. None were any better than Wallace, the slugging third baseman who helped the 28-10 Pirates win their first-ever sectional and super-sectional championships.
The senior hit .450 with a .520 on-base percentage, 46 runs scored, four home runs and 46 runs batted in. His 27 doubles rank third in Illinois history, five behind the record held by Chris Williams, of Joliet Catholic.
Wallace capped his career with his 186th hit in the 6-2 loss to Peoria Heights in the state championship game. He’s the first all-state baseball player from Valmeyer in memory and the certifiable first since the selections have been made by the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association.
“Easton’s bat speed is incredible, the best I’ve ever seen as a coach,” Reinhardt said. “You don’t fool him. If you make a mistake, he’ll make you pay for it.”
Wallace might have made the cut as a pitcher, too, if given the opportunity. He was 6-1 with a 2.80 ERA his junior season but was limited to 22 innings pitched this spring, due mostly to the emergence of freshman Phillip Reinhardt and junior Andrew Whipple.
“He just had a little tenderness early in the season, so I shut him down,” Reinhardt said. “Phillip and Andrew pitched so well, I just let it go. There was no need to push it.
“Plus, he plays a good third base. Easton has got great hands.”
Still, with the season on the line against Somonauk in the super-sectional, Wallace answered an emergency call to the mound, where his three shutout innings gave the Pirates time to take the lead and eventually earn their advancement to the state semifinals.
Wallace, 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, will play next season at Kaskaskia College with hopes of transferring to a four-year program. He says he would like eventually to study athletic training at McKendree University.
In the meantime, the sting of Saturday’s loss already has faded into the recognition of what the Pirates’ playoff run has meant to his teammates and his community.
“For the community, I think it will bring more support to the baseball team and some recognition,” Easton said. “It just feels great to look back and think Valmeyer finished second in the state. Nobody thinks we’d make a big run, but we surprised them.
“I think at this point, we’re not a surprise anymore.”