Coalers will use their speed to run the bases

Brent Sumner
Staff Writer

Coal City will have to get its mojo back with the departure of their No. 1 pitcher and several infield players. And there's no one better to do it than long-time coach Jerry McDowell. 

"We have very good team speed, but are very inexperienced in some positions," said McDowell. "We are looking at 20 wins, and hopefully finish near the top in conference."

McDowell will enter his 23rd year at the helm, amassing a high school coaching record of 502-210. 

He will be assisted by Nate Wills and Greg Wills, along with pitching coach Brett Lardi and scorer Tim Horrie. 

"I have been blessed with a great coaching staff, with four coaches that have assisted me for at least 10 seasons."

Coal City's roster has six seniors, along with nine juniors. They will also have two sophomores and two freshmen playing up. 

The team will have several returning players at key positions.

JJC commit Jake Brnca will return to the mound for Coal City, and will also see time in the outfield. 

He will most likely by caught by Eureka College commit Dean Moir. 

Austin Mellen, Coal City's top returning hitter will also find time in the infield and on the mound. 

Zack Nolan will return to the outfield, and Blake Harseim, who started as a sophomore, will play shortstop. He could also see time on the mound. 

A couple of new athletes set to make a stand on varsity will be Payton Hutchings and Kaleb Spreitzer. 

Hutchings is a freshman, and will most likely see time at first base and pitcher, while Spreitzer will most likely play outfield and first base.

Coal City finished their season with an overall record of 24-11, and defeated some quality programs along the way. 

They upended Joliet Catholic twice, including in the Regional opener (1-0). They also picked up wins over Joliet Central, Metamora and Jacksonville.


While the Coalers moved up to 3A last year, they ran into a tough Lemont team in the second round of Regional. 

That type of post season competition may have sparked the program into adding tougher teams to their schedule this year.

The Coalers, since moving up to 3A, have strengthened their schedule moving forward, and they will be tested right off the ba.

Coal City is wasting no time in getting their inexperienced players tested, and it could pay off in the long run when they reach postseason play. 

"Our non-conference schedule is full of powerhouses, including Bloomington, Rock Island, Peoria, Richwoods, Rochester, Pleasant Plains and Quincy," said McDowell. 

While Coal City added some strong teams to their season's schedule, they will also be tested within the conference against some strong teams like Herscher, Reed-Custer and possibly Wilmington. 

"We play in a loaded area of talented baseball teams," added McDowell.

The Comets, who are defending state champs, will return several of their key pitchers (Eddie Wilkins and Hunter Murawski), and always put up a good fight against Coal City. 

As for Herscher, they are returning a lot of their starting line-up from last year, and they could pose a threat, despite moving back down to 2A. 

The Coalers were supposed to start Monday, but all of that snow put a damper on the plans. 

Coal City will hold their home opener on Monday, weather permitting, against Gardner-South Wilmington, and will then host four more games before hitting the road again.