Photo by Jeff Helmkamp
Civic Memorial pitcher Brandon Hampton delivers a pitch at the Bethalto Sports Complex during the high school season. Hampton, a junior-to-be for the Eagles, is a key cog on CM’s SLABA baseball team this summer.
Following their inaugural season, which found them finishing second behind Mascoutah in the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association (SLABA) Championship Series, the Civic Memorial Eagles are earning their keep in the league.
In only their second season, the Eagles had amassed a 4-2 record entering SLABA competition this week. The 2015 coaching staff is head coach Jeff Smith, along with assistant coaches Gary Bruening, Jarod Klier, and Matt Buhs.
CM is following up a strong spring season where it earned a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference title and compiled an 18-15 mark. After starting 4-11, the Eagles went on a tear, finishing 14-4 on the season. Unfortunately, they were ousted in the first round of the Class 3A Jersey Regional by eventual state champion Highland.
CM is looking to expound on that success with a solid summer season.
“Our expectations this year are to compete just as well,” said Buhs, also a member of the varsity coaching staff. “This is a great opportunity for the kids the high school coaches did not get to see enough last year at freshmen or JV ball to get in front of the coaching staff and show us what they can do.”
Enjoying its 28th season, SLABA has been the summer playground for several notable past players such as David Freese, Ryan Howard and pitcher Max Scherzer plus a host of others. SLABA 17 has a makeup of 16 teams throughout the St. Louis area.
The Eagles, featuring a good mix of two seniors, nine juniors, and three sophomores, are currently sitting in fourth place starting with a loss before going 4-1 during their last five games.
“The kids have played hard this year,” Buhs said. “It’s tough with a log of them playing multiple sports, but we’ve been pleased with how they’ve played as a whole.”
CM had six hitters batting over .300 entering this week. Led by David Lane, with a scorching .556 average and an on-base percentage of .692, CM isn’t lacking in offense.
In fact, the Eagles are scoring at a 5.6 runs per game clip. Other offensive stand outs include: Trevor Panyik with a .412 average and Brandon Carpenter leading the team with three doubles and six RBIs.
“I wouldn’t say it comes easy for me” Carpenter said. “I just focus on putting the ball into play and that works best for me. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself I just treat the at-bat like any other at-bat.”
Following Carpenter is Geoffrey Withers and Collin Hall both with four RBIs. Jaxsen Helmkamp and Colin Overmeyer also are supplying extra base pop.
“We have pretty high expectations of this group going into next year,” Buhs said. “If they keep working hard they have a chance to be a pretty good team next spring.”
He said the pitching has been solid. The staff is led by returning pitcher Brandon Hampton, a five-game winner for the Eagles the past spring.
Buhs said, “We have a lot of guys that have the potential to give us some power arms that we are going to need.”
He added, “Matt Lawrence, Colin Hall, Geoffrey Withers, Colin Overmeyer, Trevor Panyik, and Derek Walker could all be ready to contribute next spring and I look forward to having that kind of pitching depth.”
Thus far this season, the staff has four pitchers with 1-0 records. Hampton leads the way with seven innings pitched, a 2.00 ERA and the team’s only complete game.