Columbia returns eight players from last year’s baseball team that finished 22-13 under head coach Keith Jany.
The Eagles graduated nine players from its 2013 team, but Jany is expecting new guys to step up and keep his program competitive.
“As of now, I believe our pitching and defense will be our strengths,” Jany said. “We lost much offense from last year due to graduation, so we may have to find a way to score runs. But I think our pitching and defense will keep us in most games and give us a chance to compete.”
Returning players from the 2013 squad are seniors Josh Fleming (pitcher-infielder), Kyle Gudeman (outfielder), Spencer Jerome (infielder-catcher), Camren Shewfelt (infielder-pitcher), KJ Spisak (catcher), Quinten Spivey (infielder), Jacob Hill (infielder-outfielder-pitcher) and Brendan Wilhelm (pitcher-outfielder).
“This season, we are expecting big things from Fleming (3-3, 2.03 ERA) and Wilhelm (1-2, 4.35 ERA) on the mound,” Jany said. “They both did a terrific job for us last year and we hope that continues into this season.”
Offensively, Gudeman hit .443 in 2013 with 13 stolen bases. Shewfelt hit .326, and Spisak hit .375.
Other players that have caught Jany’s eye heading into the season opener include Cole Foster (infielder-pitcher) and Jacob Hill, who fought through injuries last season, and pitcher-infielder Nathan Schnaak, who transferred from Alton and is pushing the infielders for playing time.
“Juniors JT Broshears, Brian Dougherty, Brendan Fauss, Matt Hutchison, Brett Luther, Zach Mathews, Patrick McDermott and sophomore Cameron Touchette are all proving they are very good ball players and are fighting for positions as well,” Jany said.
As for key games on this year’s schedule for the Eagles, Jany said he expects the Cahokia Conference to be very competitive.
“Our conference is always very tough with Wesclin, Carlyle, Breese Central, Red Bud, and Freeburg, so those are key games for us,” he said. “Our first goal is to win conference, so we will focus on these games as the season gets started.”
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