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 Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men. 1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78. 1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.