It may seem like everyone on the Swansea-Fairview Heights Giants American Legion baseball team is capable of pitching, but actually that’s not too far from the truth.
Manager Craig Steiner has one of the deepest pitching groups that he’s had with his club coming off a 33-11 record and third-place finish at the Illinois state tournament.
“Our pitching is really the key to how far we go this year,” said Steiner, and that pitching talent has been a major reason why the Giants are 9-2-1 in their first 12 games. “We’ve got quite a bit of pitching depth.”
Some of that pitching includes college experience with returning staff ace Tyler Herbert from O’Fallon coming off his freshman season at Southwestern Illinois College. Herbert is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 18 innings. He was the District 22 Player of the Year last season.
Other returning pitchers are McKendree pitcher Blake Deatherage (1-0), Brady Schanuel (Belleville East, Parkland College recruit) and Miles Brunk (2-0; Belleville East). The mound staff includes Mitch Harlan (2-0; Belleville East, Millikin recruit), Chris Dye (O’Fallon), Grant Robison (O’Fallon) and reliever Jeff Caringer (Belleville East).
The Giants got only one game in over the weekend at the Jefferson City (Mo.) Showcase Tournament before rain washed out the remainder of the schedule.
A particularly strong outfield returns with University of Missouri-St. Louis players Kyle Boewe (.405, five doubles, 12 RBIs) and Domonic Blaylock (.275, 10 RBIs) returning along with Deatherage (.270, nine RBIs).
Deatherage is seeing a lot of time on the infield this summer, so newcomer Derricke Rozycke has taken over one of the outfield spots. The recent Freeburg High graduate is off to a flying start, hitting .425 for the Giants with four doubles, one triple and 10 RBIs.
“He’s really been our most consistent hitter,” Steiner said.
Rozycke, who played with the St. Louis Pirates travel team last summer, hit .350 with 29 RBIs this season for Freeburg. He also is seeing bullpen duty with the Giants and already has two saves.
Catcher Nick Crabtree (.312, four RBIs) was a left fielder for O’Fallon this season. Nick Martin (Belleville East) is at first and is hitting .278 with eight RBIs.
Sheldon Howard (Belleville East) is seeing time at second base and catcher, with Deatherage and Schanuel (.312, eight RBIs) at shortstop. Schanuel also has played some third base along with O’Fallon’s Jackson Penrod (.444) and Harlan.
Swansea-Fairview Heights is one of the main tourney hosts for the annual Firecracker Classic July 3-5 and Steiner said the Giants’ pool includes three defending state high school champions and two third-place teams.
Swansea-Fairview Heights Giants
June 17 —at Alton, 7:30 p.m.
June 19 — vs. Rantoul at Trenton, 5 p.m.
June 20 — vs. Steeleville at Trenton, 1 p.m.
June 20 — vs. Salem at Aviston, 3:30 p.m.
June 21 — Trenton Tourney, TBA
June 22 — at DeSoto, Mo. (DH), 1 p.m.
June 23 — Jerseyville, 6:30 p.m.
June 24 — Festus, 6:30 p.m.
June 26 — vs. DeSoto at Festus, Mo., 5:30 p.m.
June 27 — vs. Ste. Genevieve at Festus, Mo., 10 a.m.
June 27 — vs. Eureka at Festus, Mo., 12:30 p.m.
June 28 —vs. Jackson at Festus, Mo., 11 a.m.
June 29 — Highland, 7:30 p.m.
July 1 — Roxana, 6 p.m.
July 3-5 — Firecracker Classic
July 8 — at Belleville, 7:30 p.m.
July 9 — at Alton, 7:30 p.m.