Posted Online: March 14, 2013, 6:30 pm

Rockridge adding more expertise to its baseball coaching staff

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By Terry Duckett,

As his Rockridge baseball team looks to bounce back after going from the Class 2A Elite Eight in 2011 to a 17-14 finish last spring, coach Glen Cook feels like he's surrounded himself with the people to help get that job done.

After longtime assistant Joe Robinson stepped aside, Cook reached out to the former coach of one of the Rockets' longest-established rivals to fill that place in the dugout. Former Sherrard head man Neal Gauley stepped in to take Robinson's spot.

"Bringing Neal on board has been a big plus for us," Cook said of Gauley, who coached Sherrard to its first regional baseball championship in 2001. "Obviously, he's got a wealth of knowledge about the game, and we're very tickled to have him with us. Being an old Sherrard guy, that could have been difficult for Neal, but so far, it's worked out fine.

"We've known each other all of our lives, although he's about 20 years younger than me. I went to school with his dad, and Neal and I are opposites, nothing alike. We look at baseball in a different way, and I thought bringing him on board would allow us to look at the game with a different perspective."

Cook is equally happy with the addition of former Rock Island standout Josh Gibbs as the Rockets' sophomore coach, along with the continued contributions of volunteer assistant Mel Blaser, who works with Rockridge's hitters.

"I'm really happy about our staff," he said. "With Neal and Mel and Josh, I think they compare with anybody around. They're all good baseball guys, and I'm very excited about what they bring."

Eagles hope to add to football, wrestling triumphs: Having contended for the Lincoln Trail Conference baseball crown last spring en route to an 18-16 finish, the Mercer County Golden Eagles hope to not only build on that success but follow the path blazed by the school's football and wrestling programs.

Several members of those teams are on coach Nick Basala's roster. The Mercer County football team went 14-0 and won the Class 2A state championship, and the Golden Eagle wrestlers advanced to the 1A state team finals before falling to perennial power Dakota.

"There's been a lot of enthusiasm in practice, a lot of excitement and high expectations," said Basala. "Especially with our seniors. They know how to take control and get guys doing what they need to do. I hope they can get us moving in the right direction."

New faces: Several area baseball programs will have new faces running the show once the spring season gets under way in earnest.

In the Three Rivers Conference, both Fulton and Kewanee are under new direction. Former Morrison prep Jayme Farrell takes over a Steamer programthat won a 1A regional title in 2010 under his predecessor, Jim Fish. At Kewanee,Tyler Nichols adds the baseball program to his duties after recently being tabbed the Boilermakers' new football coach.

The other change comes in the LTC, where Steve Cairns is the sole head coach of the United baseball program after splitting that post with the retired Rick Johnson the last several seasons.