April 30, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – The middle of the batting order has been good to the John A. Logan College baseball team most games this spring. Two key contributors have been a pair of freshmen – outfielders Jeff Hahs and Tyler Horchem.

Hahs, an O’Fallon native, is batting in the clean-up spot for the Volunteers. He is hitting a robust .382 (second only to leadoff hitter Kyle Schneider’s .386), while leading the team in on-base percentage (.422); slugging (.512); and doubles (12). Hahs is also tied for first in home runs with one; triples with two; and is second in runs batted in with 23.

Defensively, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is more than holding his own. He has shown remarkable range for a big guy, making a diving catch in foul ground against Rend Lake and throwing out a runner at the plate in the same game. He showcased his arm a second time Tuesday, cutting down a Three Rivers runner trying to tag up from second to third on a fly to medium right.

Horchem, listed at 6-foot-2, 170, is from Lincoln. He bats in the No. 5 hole and has proven to be excellent protection for Hahs.

Horchem is hitting at a .316 clip with a .398 slugging percentage and .364 on-base percentage. He has banged out 42 hits in 133 at bats (third most on the team); is tied for the team lead in homers with one and triples with two. He leads the team in RBIs with 27. Defensively, he possesses a strong arm and has shown good range, making a couple of diving catches in recent games.

“Those two guys as freshmen are getting us pretty excited,” said JALC head coach Jerry Halstead. “Jeff has swung the bat well all year, and along with Kyle Schneider, has been our most consistent hitter. Tyler has really come on the second half of the season and become an RBI machine for us. If Jeff doesn’t clean things up, Tyler usually does. They have both been a big part of our success this spring.”

Halstead said Hahs and Horchem are much more than sluggers.

“They’re also two of the better outfielders in our league,” he said. “They get good jumps on the ball and have good arms. They run the bases well. They’re just good all-around players – solid players, solid students and solid kids. I’m glad to have them in our program here at Logan.”

Hahs said there’s nothing special about his success this spring.

“I just try to put myself in the best hitting situation possible,” he said. “I look for a fastball or something that I can really drive. I don’t think about too much when I’m in the batter’s box. I just want to hit the ball hard somewhere, and hopefully, help get some runners home so that we can win.”

Hahs said his inside-out stroke to the opposite field is something he began developing early in his high school career at O’Fallon.

“I was fortunate enough to make the varsity squad as a freshman and started for three years. I was taught to take the pitch the other way when I could and spent a lot of time working on my swing. Pulling the ball can be fun, too, but I don’t care that much about home runs. I just want to get on base and help my team win. And taking the ball the other way is what I am the most comfortable with.”

Horchem said it took him a while to make the adjustment to college ball, but he eventually began to see positive results.

“I’m just a lot more comfortable now,” he said. “More comfortable with my teammates, my coaches, and at the plate. I always had the confidence that I could hit at this level and I’m glad to be contributing.”

Horchem said he also took the approach of driving the ball up the middle and to the opposite field, avoiding a dead-pull mentality.

“Driving in runs is a big part of my game. I take pride in it. It doesn’t matter how I do it,” he said.

At Lincoln, Horchem set school records for runs batted in during a season; hits in a season and career; and doubles in a career.


Like Hahs, Horchem has shined defensively in the outfield. He started the season playing mostly first base, but once some other players became healthy, he was shifted back to the outfield.


“That’s where I’m most comfortable,” he said. “Really, it doesn’t matter to me where I play as long as I am on the field.”

Horchem said the Vols are playing their best baseball at the right time.

“It’s pretty unbelievable how we are doing (24-14 and Great Rivers Athletic Conference champion) after falling to 6-10 at one point. I think we turned things around because we believe in ourselves. This team is close, both on and off the field. We hang out together. We look out for one another and want everyone to do well.

“I think we have a great chance of doing something special at the Region 24 tournament. We have the pitching. If we hit like we have shown, I believe good things will happen.”

Hahs agreed.

“I like our chances in the postseason,” he said. “Early in the spring when we struggled, getting swept by Southwestern Illinois, I think other teams kind of wrote us off. But now, I’m not so sure they look forward to playing us. Everything is coming together at just the right time like we had hoped. We just have to go out there and play hard, one game at a time.”

 

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Steve O’Keefe at 618-985-2828 ext. 8569 or email at steveokeefe@jalc.edu.