Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 9:03 pm

Veteran Annawan-Wethersfield club aiming high this spring

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By Terry Duckett,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Annawan-Wethersfield's Trey Hannam slides safely into home during the Titans' Class 1A Orion Regional title-clinching win over Orion last Saturday. The Titans face Abingdon in Wednesday's Bloomington Sectional semifinals.
All the pieces are in place for the Annawan-Wethersfield baseball program to have perhaps its most successful season ever.

Even though the Titans will make the jump to Class 2A after winning three straight regional championships at the 1A level, head coach Jeff Parsons feels anything is possible after last year's 27-7 finish, a record for the eight-year-old co-op. The Titans also won their first outright LTC title last season and sharedthe 2009 LTC crown with AlWood-Cambridge (now Ridgewood) and ROWVA.

"With a core of eight kids that saw a lot of varsity playing time -- including (being part of) a 2012 conference and regional championship -- and graduating only two starters, the sky is the limit,'' said Parsons."We look to have continued success in the postseason, but realize it will be more challenging with the jump to 2A.''

Although those lost starters, Michael Parsons (42 stolen bases) and Terry Yelm (6-3, 2.31 ERA) will be tough to replace, the Titans won't be lacking for skill, beginning with Kankakee Community College-bound senior outfielder Trey Hannam, who batted .420 with 16 doubles, 42 RBIs and 45 runs.

Classmate Tyler Litton (.340, 12 doubles, 37 RBIs) provides extra pop to go with his pitching; he compiled a 6-0 mark with a 2.86 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 2012. A third senior, catcher Kegan Jacobson, is coming off a year in which he hit .330 with 11 doubles and 36 RBIs.

"We hit well over .300 as a team last year, and have our top six hitters back,'' said Parsons. "Our team speed is good, and defense will be solid. Our football team made a run to the final 8 and our basketball teams were successful, so we hope to keep this rolling into the spring.''

Among the teams looking to unseat Annawan-Wethersfield, perennial title contender ROWVA is always one to watch out for, while Mercer County and Ridgewood both have designs on turning last season's successes into Lincoln Trail gold.

Coming off a 23-11 season and a third-place LTC finish behind A-W and ROWVA, the Ridgewood Spartans appeared poised to make a strike at the top with nine returning letterwinners, five of which are underclassmen, a group led by junior pitcher/infielder Noah Shannon (8-3, 2.58 ERA; .303, 15 RBIs).

Among the four seniors, outfielder Dusty Werner (.427, 12 doubles, 26 RBIs, 21 stolen bases) and pitcher/utility man Nick Ragan (5-1, 3.50; .374, 11 doubles, 32 RBIs) should help the Spartans weather the loss of senior starters Alex Main (.366, 27 RBIs), Chad Leathers and Jansen Noble.

"They've prepared themselves for this season since the end of 2012,'' said Ridgewood coach Seth Spivey. "We've got a lot of experience back, with an understanding of the speed of the game, and even our newer guys have played high-level baseball before, so they should be able to acclimate themselves (to varsity ball) and make contributions.

"One big thing for us is that our pitching staff is fairly deep, with a variety of guys we can count on, so our main concern will be scoring runs. A-W is tough; from one through nine, there's no easy outs. That's the level we want to get to.''

At Mercer County, the Golden Eagles (18-16) are buoyed by being a part of last year's conference race, and also by the achievements of the school's state-title football team and state runner-up wrestling squad, with players from each being a part of the baseball program.

And like A-W and Ridgewood, Mercer County has plenty of pitching depth, with senior Tanner Matlick (6-2, 1.97 ERA; .377 BA, 11 doubles, 30 RBIs) leading a staff that includes up-and-coming junior Ryan Garrett and sophomore Blake Dillavou. But for Coach Nick Basala, defense is the ultimate key to how high the Eagles fly in '13.

"We've got to field it,'' said Basala. "Our pitching is strong enough, with five guys we can trust to throw in any situation, and we averaged seven runs per game last year. We've just got to shore things up in the middle, and keep away from mental mistakes. If we can do that, we'll be OK. I can see at least five teams near the top in the LTC.''

Two years removed from winning the conference title, United is in rebuilding mode after a 6-19 finish last spring. Coach Steve Cairns, like his counterparts, anticipates a tough LTC race as the Red Storm look to bounce back.

"It's as solid as it's been since I've been coaching,'' said Cairns. "Last year, we didn't get the timely hitting we'd had the year before, and pitching was our Achilles' heel; it seemed like even before the game started last year, we'd be down 2-0 with walks and hit batsmen. That was how our luck ran last year.''

Galva-Williamsfield (17-10), which posted winning records in both the LTC and the Inter-County Athletic Conference -- its Williamsfield affiliation enabled the co-op to win the 2012 ICAC crown -- is another team to watch as the one-two pitching punch of senior ace James Doubet and junior Tyler Doubet make the Wildcats dangerous.

"Our depth is better this year, and I think our hitting will be as good or better than it was last year,'' said G-W coach Charlie Sams. "Our pitching is going to be huge, so the key is stepping up and making plays. If we do that, we have a chance to do OK.''


Annawan-Wethersfield Titans
Jeff Parsons (7th year).
2012: 27-7 (15-3 LTC, 1st place), lost 10-1 to Abingdon in the Class 1A Bloomington Sectional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Trey Hannam (OF), Tyler Litton (3B/P), Kegan Jacobson (P/C/OF), Cody Phillips (2B/SS/P), Zach VanWassenhove (1B/P), Tony Gripp (P/C/IF), Grant Baele (OF/P). Jrs.: Matt Jenkins (1B/OF), Trevor Lay (2B/P).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Jake Bennett (IF/P), Blake Vincent (IF/OF), Austin Osborne (C/OF), Micam Smith (OF).

Galva-Williamsfield Wildcats
Coach: Charlie Sams (2nd year).
2012: 17-10 (9-7 LTC; 4-1 ICAC, 1st place), lost 10-0 to Orion in the Class 1A Orion Regional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: James Doubet (P/OF), Logan Smith (C). Jrs.: James Sams (SS), Parker White (Utility), Tyler Doubet (P/1B), David Jeffries (OF), Donovan Benson (OF/DH). Soph.: Colin Landis (1B/3B/P), Easton Beard (P).
Newcomers -- Jr.: Austin Gladfelter (Utility). Fr.: Garrett White (P/Utility), Billy Comer (Utility).

Mercer County Golden Eagles
Coach: Nick Basala (4th year).
2012: 18-16 (11-7 LTC), lost 1-0 to Monmouth-Roseville in the first round of the Class 2A Mercer County Regional.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Logan Snyder (OF), Jesse Snyder (OF), Joe Elliott (1B), Darrin Harrison (2B/P), Tanner Matlick (3B/P), Blake Patterson (OF). Jrs.: A.J. Line (OF), Ryan Garrett (P/IF), Trenton Higgins (C), Tyson Nylin (SS). Soph.: Blake Dillavou (P).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Treyten Hileman (1B), Austin Skalla (P), Tyson Russell (OF), Nathan Lamkin (2B). Soph.: Dalton Howard (P).

Ridgewood Spartans
Coach: Seth Spivey (4th year with co-op; 8th year overall).
2012: 23-11 (13-5 LTC), lost 8-1 to Annawan-Wethersfield in the Class 1A Orion Regional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Dusty Werner (P/OF), Nick Ragan (P/IF/OF), Jarod Litton (IF), Jacob Cole (P/OF). Jrs.: Andrew Steider (P/IF), Noah Shannon (P/IF), Blayne Street (C). Soph.: Nate Humphrey (P/OF), Ridge Greenman (P/IF).
Newcomers -- Jr.: Cole Colburn (IF/OF). Soph.: Joey Lambin (P/IF).

United Red Storm
Coach: Steve Cairns (1st year).
2012: 6-19 (3-15 LTC), lost 15-12 to Princeville in the first round of the Class 1A Abingdon Regional.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Cory Armstrong (P/OF), Trenton Watts (OF), Jackson Brentise (Utility), Andrew Raes (P/1B), Cortland Walters (1B), Chris Wunnenberger (SS). Soph.: Jack Whitsitt (SS/OF/P), Masno Love (P/C).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Lance Sperry (IF/P), Riley Whitsitt (Utility). Fr.: Dalton Chenault (P).