Photo by Diane Cox
Oilers’ senior hurler Blake Marks delivers a pitch on March 17 during a home contest at EA-WR against rival Roxana. The Oilers entered the week winning 8 out of their last 10 games and Marks has been a major component in that success.
Blake Marks strung together a memorable season for the East Alton-Wood River High basketball team. He stamped it unforgettable.
Now, he’s intending to do the same for the baseball Oilers. And the 6-foot-1 senior, bound for Lewis and Clark Community College, is well on his way to accomplishing his goal.
He’s registering some big numbers in helping the Oilers experience a second-half surge. Once 2-13, they’ve won 8 out of 10 games entering this week and put themselves in position to win the Prairie State Conference. EA-WR outscored its opponents 96-49 during that 10-game stretch.
Marks is a major reason for that. He was 4-2 with an ERA of 0.65 and batting .507 with 4 home runs and 29 RBIs. Marks also had eight doubles and six triples through EA-WR’s first 24 games.
“He’s doing it all for us,” EA-WR baseball coach Kyle Duncan said. “Blake’s doing exactly what we figured — and then some — with his hitting.
“Blake has also done a great job pitching and he’s getting more support this season. Last year, he pitched in a bunch of tough games and didn’t get any wins.”
EA-WR won only four games in 2015, so the Oilers have regrouped and come to life this spring. That suits Marks.
“The team is doing a lot better and everyone is starting to hit the ball,” he said. “It’s great because the most wins we’ve had since I’ve played here was nine. And that’s when I was a freshman.”
They last experienced a winning season in 2007 when the Oilers finished 13-9.
If Marks has his way, EA-WR will continue its push for a winning record. He’s doing all he can to make the Oilers successful.
“My power numbers are way up from last season and I’m pitching better this year,” he said. “My velocity has gone up and I’ve been working in my off-speed pitches.”
So he has sharpened his mound work.
“I think I have a lot more experience,” Marks said of his pitching.
His hitting hasn’t missed a beat. Marks batted .478 with 2 home runs and 29 RBIs last season. Thus, his batting is about the same, but those big hits have become more frequent.
“I’m more selective at the plate and I’m driving the ball more because I’m faster and stronger,” he said.
Some of that speed and strength came from his dutiful off-season regimen.
“I worked hard over the summer and during the fall,” Marks said. “I didn’t play football last fall, but I was able to put on 20 pounds and a lot of muscle. I can feel that now.”
He turned that work into gratification the past basketball season. Marks averaged 22 points per game and scored a school-record 51 points in a regional loss to Dupo. He finished his career with 1,445 points, second to Dan Coddington, with 1,582 points, on the all-time school scoring chart.
Marks then received the 110 percent award during the 71st annual Alton Exchange Club of the Year banquet. He served as the Oilers’ MVP.
“I think I had the right mindset during the basketball season and that was a really big asset,” said Marks, a marked player during EA-WR games.
Duncan, also the Oilers’ basketball coach, saw his marked improvement in the winter and noted that it carried over to the spring. In particular, Marks’ pitching has rejuvenated the Oilers.
“He has become more of a pitcher this season and if you look at his strikeouts-to-walks ratio, it’s very good,” Duncan said.
Through his first 32.3 innings, Marks logged 42 strikeouts and issued just 15 walks. His biggest win may have come April 25 when Marks pitched the Oilers by Marquette, 2-1, in Prairie State play at Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
“I like pitching and I’d say that was my biggest win of the season,” Marks said. He didn’t allow an earned run in the narrow victory.
“It’s pretty fantastic when you can shut down the other team.”
Once he’s finished with spring ball, Marks plans to play this summer for the Twin City American Legion team that went 27-3 last season. Then it’s on to LCCC in the fall. He will likely be playing only baseball for the Trailblazers.
Yet that suits his style. The game holds a special place in his heart.
“In baseball, it’s the little things that can win you games,” Marks said.
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