The Valmeyer High School baseball team enjoyed a historic 2016, winning the program’s first regional title in 45 years. Now that the Pirates have had a taste of success, they are hungry for even more this spring.
The Pirates return eight starters from last year’s squad that finished 22-15-1 and captured a second straight Kaskaskia Division crown.
“This is the deepest team I have coached in my 14 years as a head coach at Valmeyer and Kewanee-Wethersfield high schools,” said Valmeyer head coach Greg Reinhardt, who won his 200th career game on Friday.
Gone to graduation is Mark Nappier, who is now playing at Southwestern Illinois College. He hit 10 home runs with 49 RBIs to lead the Pirates last season.
Returning are pitchers Easton Wallace (6-1, 2.80 ERA in 2016), Cole Juelfs (5-1, 2.01 ERA), Andrew Whipple (4-3, 30 strikeouts) and Drew Maus (2-2, three saves), as well as southpaw Michael Chism, Ryan Brinkman and Logan Seidler.
Freshman southpaw Philip Reinhardt will also see some mound duty.
“We have five or six solid starters and four quality relievers,” Coach Reinhardt said. “The new (IHSA) pitch count (rule) should be an advantage for us, as long as we stay healthy.”
Senior twins Easton and Erik Wallace return on offense for the Pirates. Easton, a third baseman, led the team with 64 hits and 14 doubles last year and a .481 average. He also had 32 RBIs. Erik Wallace, an outfielder, hit six home runs last season while batting .329.
Junior outfielder Jake Krekel, who hit .393 with a .500 on base percentage and 22 stolen bases, also returns.
Juelfs, another junior who plays shortstop when not on the mound, will bat leadoff. Junior Tyler Kempfer will catch and looks to improve on his .336 average and 23 RBIs in 2016.
Junior first baseman Chism hit .320 last year and is expected to provide punch in the middle of the lineup.
Other key returners are outfielders Maus and Brinkman and second baseman Whipple. Seidler started several times in the infield last year and should see significant time as well.
Philip Reinhardt will compete for playing time in the outfield and infield. Another freshman, Riley McCarthy, will compete for an infield spot and spell Kempfer at catcher. Junior infielder Evan Thien will see time at the corners and provide some punch at the plate.
Rounding out the roster are newcomers freshmen infielder Sam Fitzwilliam and outfielder John Fausz.
“The team has been very focused early and is eager to get going,” Coach Reinhardt said.
Valmeyer is off to a 3-1 start to the season, opening with a 5-1 loss to Gibault last Wednesday before toppling Carlyle on Friday, Peoria Christian on Saturday, and Wood River on Monday.
Philip Reinhardt (.636, six RBIs), Juelfs (.667), Maus (.583) and Thien (.500) have been the early stars on offense.