The Missouri State University baseball program continued to flex its recruiting muscle in the metro-east with the signing of O’Fallon standout Hayden Juenger.
The incoming senior pitcher announced his commitment to MSU and the Bears through social media on Monday.
“What attracts me to Missouri State first and foremost is the great coaching they have there,” Juenger said. “On top of that they have great facilities. From (Hammond Field), which is a minor league stadium, to the indoor training facilities, they are really like none other.
“I’ve always thought I’d like to go there and it all just kind of came together after I visited there.”
The 6-foot, 165-pound Juenger led the Panthers with a 7-2 record and 2.20 ERA. He also struck out 62 batters while walking 20 in 63.7 innings pitched. In 2016, as a sophomore at Collinsville, he had a 1.67 ERA in 38 innings.
O’Fallon head coach Jason Portz says Juenger — who also batted .349 with seven doubles and 23 RBIs for the Panthers — fits the MSU mold for athletic players who bring upside on the mound.
His fastball consistently reaches the low 90s, but he says he’ll be working to develop a better breaking ball and off-speed pitch.
He’s had a success without a terrific secondary pitch, so there is a ton of upside for him to grow from. If he can develop a strong overhead curve or a knock-out slider, look out.
Jason Portz, O’Fallon head coach
“Hayden is one of those guys who can be been a quality shortstop or third baseman for any team in the state who happens be able to go out and throw 88 to 91 with consistency,” Portz said. “He’s had a success without a terrific secondary pitch, so there is a ton of upside for him to grow from. If he can develop a strong overhead curve or a knock-out slider, look out.”
O’Fallon finished 32-6, losing to Edwardsville in the semifinals of the Normal 4A Regional.
Missouri State, meanwhile, advanced to the NCAA Super Regional, just a win shy of a College World Series berth.
Four metro-east players helped the Bears along the way including freshman catcher Drew Millas of Belleville East, senior second baseman Aaron Meyer of Belleville West, slugging outfielder Blake Graham of Edwardsville, and freshman relief pitcher Tyler Mcalister of Waterloo.
O’Fallon sophomore Josh Gibson also has given a verbal commitment to MSU.
“Missouri State right now is a real attractive place with a southern Illinois vibe going for it,” said O’Fallon coach Jason Portz. “Kids watch ESPN and the College World Series and they know Missouri State has a chance every year to be in the Super Regional.
“I think it’s attractive, too, for Hayden because it’s close enough that his family will get a chance to see him play.”
Juenger says he will likely major in business marketing with some emphasis in sports.
O’Fallon pitcher Brayden Arnold, another Class of 2018 transfer from Collinsville, also announced his commitment to Division-II Maryville of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Arnold went 8-1 with a 2.85 ERA for the Panthers. He struck out 30 and walked 24 in 46.7 innings pitched.