This has been a spring where rescheduled games and events were postponed a second time or, in some cases, canceled completely. When teams aren’t playing consistently, it’s hard to get a complete overview of the area. Some area baseball teams have played as many as 17 games, some as few as three. Some have had as many as 10 games postponed. Here are a few things we know, courtesy Fred Kroner:
RANTOUL STAYS STRONG
A year ago, the Eagles won the Corn Belt title for the first time. During this preseason, coach Jon Donovan said expectations were “a little higher than last year.” The 11-3 squad hasn’t disappointed even with the loss of injured first baseman Tom Wolken (fractured leg). Versatile senior Cord Church (who also runs track) is an outfielder who has filled in at first or as a catcher when regular catcher Chris Deaville takes the mound. Deaville, a two-time all-conference first-teamer, and pitching ace Luke Pannbacker will remain teammates next school year at Lincoln Trail Community College. Junior Kolton Vermillion (a transfer from Armstrong-Potomac) has helped solidify a pitching staff that also includes junior Kyle Flessner. Junior shortstop Tanner McLain is the area hitting leader (.667 average) and Donovan said “is our leader defensively, offensively and on the practice field. The work ethic he has, you don’t see often at the high school level.”
YOUNG TALENT IN CHAMPAIGN
The first game in the City of Champaign series was rained out (though they tried to play). Prospects for today’s 6:30 p.m. game (at Centennial) don’t appear good. Both high schools, however, are paddling upstream in the same boat. Their varsity lineups are dotted by numerous youngsters. All-Area first-teamer Kurtis Brown and pitcher Scott Runyan are senior standouts for the Maroons, who have youngsters such as sophomores Luke Beesley, Zach Dorner and Connor Mapes contributing along with freshmen Alec Barger and Jacob Snider. The Chargers have a mixture of senior veterans such as Jeffrey Lavin, Drake Peratt and Grey Schultz and talented sophomores including Dylan Grady, Jeff Lindgren and Anthony Martin making an impact for the area’s top-rated team. Central coach John Staab said the overall 8-9 record reflects the youthfulness of a program with only five juniors participating. “We still lack that consistency,” he said. “This (weather) is frustrating for all of us. We were spoiled last spring.”
Danville senior catcher Chuckie Robinson, who is batting .414, is attracting the attention of major league coaches. Whether the reigning Area Player of the Year eventually winds up in college next fall at Southern Mississippi or in the minor leagues this summer will be determined by the events that take place June 6-8, when the 49th amateur baseball draft is held. Scouts have been to nine of the first 10 Danville games. The lone exception was a game originally scheduled for a different day. “It’s very realistic for him to get his name called in June,” Danville coach Gary Gritton said. “They love his frame and his arm strength. It will come down to his ability to hit at the next level. He has handled this remarkably well. Part of that is it’s not new to him. He had (pro) scouts looking at him as a freshman when we played at Bloomington and Champaign Central.” Gritton has personally been in touch with scouts representing the Angels, Cubs, Mariners, Mets and Phillies.