It had been nearly 700 days between seasons for high school baseball, so you can bet local teams were excited to finally get back on the diamonds last week.
COVID wiped away the 2020 season, so many players who were just freshmen and sophomores the last time their teams played are now juniors and seniors.
Gibault and Waterloo played in state tournaments in 2019, and both got in plenty of games to start the 2021 campaign.
The cross-town rivals met last Tuesday, with the Hawks winning 6-2. Gibault pitchers Daniel Darin, Ian Bollinger and Jude Green held the Bulldogs to just one hit. Darin, Kameron Hanvey, Brayden Sabo (a Roosevelt University commit) and Chase Schrader each had two hits for Gibault.
The Hawks dropped a 9-0 contest at Mascoutah last Wednesday. Eli Garcia, a Quincy University commit, led Gibault with two hits.
On Thursday, Gibault won 5-2 at Okawville in eight innings. Ryan Bollinger pitched a complete game with six strikeouts and no walks and Hanvey went 2-for-4 with two stolen bases, an RBI and a run.
On Friday, the Hawks won 6-1 at home over Althoff, sparked by a four-run first inning. Ian Bollinger went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and freshman southpaw Brady Biffar threw four innings for the mound victory.
The Hawks, who dropped a 7-2 game at Belleville West on Monday, host Triad Thursday and play Monday at Chester.
Waterloo lost 5-3 in nine innings last Wednesday against Mater Dei. Brayden Hays went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Logan Hopfinger pitched four scoreless innings with six strikeouts.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs dropped an 8-3 game to Belleville West to begin play in the Mascoutah Wooden Bat Classic. Waterloo pitching allowed 10 walks in the contest. Marcus Heusohn, an Iowa Western Community College commit, had an RBI double.
On Friday, Waterloo collected only two hits in a 4-0 loss to Mascoutah. Luke Davis was the tough-luck loser on the mound, going four innings.
Also on Friday, the ‘Dogs ended tourney play with a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Granite City. Hays and Hopfinger had two hits apiece.
Waterloo, playing without senior ace righthander Dustin Crawford – a SWIC commit who is still playing football – hosted Valmeyer on Wednesday, winning 11-1. The ‘Dogs host Collinsville on Thursday before traveling north Friday at Columbia.
Valmeyer opened its season with a 9-4 win Friday at Marissa. Trailing 4-3 in the seventh inning, the Pirates plated six runs to emerge victorious. Henry Weber went 3-for-4 with two runs and pitched two scoreless innings for the victory.
On Monday, the Pirates lost 7-2 to the St. Louis Patriots at GCS Ballpark in Sauget.
In addition to Weber, seniors on this year’s Valmeyer squad are Southwestern Illinois College commit Jacob Rowold, Konnor Stellhorn and Jacob Kempfer.
Columbia opened its 2021 campaign with a game at Busch Stadium on Saturday, falling 13-3 to Eureka.
“With so many of our players being Cardinals fans, this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” Columbia head coach Neal O’Donnell said. “Every player, from freshmen to seniors, got to step on the field and play in the game.”
Top returning position players for the Eagles are seniors Sam Bonaldi (outfield), Jonah James (shortstop) and Matt Howard (catcher/DH). Bonaldi and James have both committed to SWIC and Howard will play at Westminster College.
Top returning pitchers for Columbia are seniors Jackson Holmes, Adam Wibbenmeyer and Trey Hemminghaus. Holmes is a Saint Louis University commit. Wibbenmeyer is going to SWIC and Hemminghaus is going to Lewis & Clark Community College.
“We have some holes to fill, but we feel good about the guys we have,” O’Donnell assessed. “Our seniors are hungry to play. Our program is hungry to play. Our pitching depth should be something that helps us this season.”
Columbia plays at Belleville West on Thursday before Saturday’s showdown with Waterloo.