February 19, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – It most certainly looks like winter in Southern Illinois with a heavy dose of snow, ice and cold temperatures, but spring sports are getting under way at the collegiate level, albeit in warmer climes.

The John A. Logan College baseball team opens its spring schedule this weekend with a three-game series in Wadley, Ala. as part of the 17th Annual Southern Union State Invitational. The Vols will first play the host school, Southern Union, at noon today. Logan will also match up with Spartanburg Methodist (South Carolina) on Saturday and Dyersburg State (Tennessee) on Sunday.

JALC head coach Jerry Halstead is embarking on his 32nd season at the helm of the Vols. He said improved pitching depth should make his team a contender in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference this spring.

“We return all three of our rotational starters from last year and that’s huge,” he said. “Joey Marciano was the GRAC ‘Freshman of the Year,’ so we’re expecting big things from him.”

A lefthander, Marciano was 8-2 last spring for the Volunteers with a 1.84 earned-run average. The Southern Illinois University signed recruit struck out 68, walked 35 and allowed 45 hits in 73 1/3 innings.

Sophomore righthanders Jake Herron and Ryan Dunne are also expected to carry a heavy load. Other sophomores likely to see action are righthanders Aaron Gabriel and Kyle Schneider.

“Both Jake and Ryan threw quality innings for us and have been through the wars of the league,” Halstead said. “Add in the fact that we have brought in some talented freshmen and transfers – and I feel we have a pretty deep staff.”

Freshman hurlers include: Gabe Jelley, Jerred Quartier, Peyton Cypress, Tyler Bialeschki, Aaron Novak, Austin Fender, Tyler Robertson, Matthias Dietz and Bobby Pennington.

Offensively, the Vols return only two sophomore regulars in catcher Jacob Carpenter and infielder Culver Plant. Vying for playing time are freshmen Aaron Fuller, Bailey Schimpf, Nate Tholl, Colton Bryant, Jordan Heckler, Logan Kaletha, Trey Grant, Tyler Horchem, Dougie Parks, Austin Rieman, Jeff Hahs, Carson Neushwander and Kenny King.

Halstead said Wabash Valley, ranked 10th nationally in the preseason, is already off to a 6-1 start and is probably the favorite to win the league.

“As usual, they’re going to be very solid, but I think the entire league is pretty solid,” he said. “We start league play March 5th ready or not. It’s time to play. We’ve been practicing for about a month now. We need to get out and play.”

Logan is scheduled to open its home schedule next Thursday through Sunday at Rent One Park in Marion as the Vols host a tournament that includes South Suburban, College of DuPage and Illinois Central.

A link to the Vols’ spring schedule is: http://www.jalc.edu/athletics/baseball/schedule/spring-2015