The Sherrard baseball team got to take a different approach with its appearance at last weekend's Putnam County Wooden Bat Tournament, where it split its two games.
"We had about three or four practices using wood bats, and I thought our kids responded fairly well,'' Sherrard coach Sean McCollum said. "We put up a lot of runs in our first game, and had a lot more hits in game two, which was nice to see. The kids were taking good approaches at the plate, and took what the pitchers gave us.''
The West Central Conference's North Division race is still up for grabs. McCollum hopes that experience will help his 8-9 club defend last year's conference title in what is shaping up to be another fight to the finish.The Tigers' 4-2 record has it mere percentage points behind first-place Carthage Illini West, which is 3-1 in the league. However, Macomb and Orion, both 3-2, are right on Sherrard's heels.
Macomb is at Sherrard today for a league twinbill and Monmouth-Roseville is at Illini West.
"One of our goals is winning conference, and the guys want it bad,'' McCollum said. "Unfortunately, with two losses (to Illini West and Rockridge), we've put ourselves in a tough spot. After this weekend, we've only got two conference games left, so we need a little help.''
Senior pitchers Nathan Fay and Brian King have combined for half of the Tigers' wins, with Fay (2-0) tossing a no-hitter in a 9-0 win over Mendota at Putnam County. Both are also among the team's leading hitters. Junior Broddie Davis also has been a huge plus for the Tigers coming out of the bullpen.
Orion will also get another crack at Sherrard after dropping a 3-1 decision in the rivals' first meeting. After a 2012 season in which the Chargers dropped nine of their first 10 games en route to a 9-19 finish, they have surpassed that win total with their 10-8 start.
"I like where this club is headed,'' said second-year Orion coach Alex Johnson, a Sherrard alum. "We're close, but we've got to put it together for seven innings. We've got three weeks to do that, with a lot of games coming up. We've got to make the adjustments we need to be competitive at regional time.''
Building on last season's strong finish that ended with an extra-inning loss to Annawan-Wethersfield in a Class 1A regional final, Orion moved above .500 in the WCC North with Thursday's 4-3 win over Rockridge (5-8, 3-5), also in eight innings.
The senior trio of shortstop Drew Amador, first baseman Tyler Nelson and third baseman Trent Burns (all of whom also share pitching duties) have been among the Chargers' most consistent hitters throughout, as has one of their younger players, sophomore outfielder Christian Allen.
"Being in these situations will help in regionals,'' Johnson said of the extra-inning win over Rockridge. "We want to be able to know what to do in those types of games.''
Today is Thursday, Dec. 12, the 346th day of 2013. There are 19 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Two boys who haul coal from Coal Valley to Davenport were arrested yesterday for running their teams through the city street at a furious rate. 1888 -- 125 years ago: E.H. Barker dislocated his left wrist and suffered a compound fracture of the right wrist when he fell from the roof of his icehouse. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Lou Harris was elected county superintendent of schools to fill the unexpired term of the late S.J. Ferguson. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a state must give equality in educational privileges to white and Negro law students. 1963 -- 50 years ago: About 300 employees of the Augustana Book Concern, staff members of the Board of Publication of the Lutheran Church in America, as well as friends of the community and out-of-town guests honored Dr. Birger Swenson at the annual Christmas dinner of the Augustana Book Concern last night in Westerlin Hall on the Augustana College campus. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The Christmas shopping season began early this year and continues to bring out shoppers in record numbers, according to Quad-Cities retailers interviewed today.