Photo by Bill Roseberry
Pictured are the senior members of the 2016 CM baseball team. From left to right are: Ronnie Alesandrini, Jack Walker, John Whitworth and Derek Walker.
The Civic Memorial Eagles shared the Mississippi Valley Conference baseball championship and contended for a regional title last season.
They’d like to do it again this spring.
The Eagles have high hopes in 2016 after they finished 18-15 last year and finished in a three-way tie with Highland and Waterloo for the Valley title. The Bulldogs went on to capture the Class 3A state crown, their second in eight years.
Yet if CM seeks more good success, the Eagles know a quick getaway can put that plan in motion. They began 2-7 last season and were 4-11 at one point before winning 14 of their last 18 games.
“We have to start out better this year,” said 20th-year CM coach Gary Bruening, owner of a 334-250 record.
He figures that’s possible if the Eagles can fuse their talent.
“We played a lot of young guys last year and that will help because we have only four seniors,” Bruening said. “So we will mostly be young with juniors and sophomores.”
One senior the Eagles can build things around is outfielder John Whitworth, also a standout football player. The left-handed hitting Whitworth, who batted .340 last season, originally considered going out for track and field this season to benefit his collegiate football career. He’s heading to Quincy University.
“John came to me and told me I’d rather play baseball,” Bruening said. “He will play center field and do a little bit of pitching for us.”
Seniors Jack Walker, Derek Walker and Ronny Alesandrini also figure in the mix of things. Jack Walker will pitch and play in the outfield. Derek Walker is a third baseman and pitcher, while Alesandrini is cast as an outfielder. Jack Walker went 4-3 with a 4.77 ERA in 12 games last season.
Junior Brandon Hampton may emerge as the Eagles’ ace. The left-hander won five games last season and compiled a 2.35 ERA. Juniors Corey Price, Collin Hall, Dalton Myers, Trevor Panyik and Collin Overmeyer also will get some mound work, as could 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore Geoffrey Withers. Two more sophomores — Christian Stawar and Spencer Powell — also can pitch.
So the Eagles have some depth there. “We’ll be all right for pitching,” Bruening said.
Juniors Konnar Loewen and Brandon Carpenter should share the catching duties. Carpenter, who hit
.348 last season, also will see time at first base and serve as a designated hitter, Bruening said.
Hampton and Withers are candidates at first base, with junior Jaxsen Helmkamp set to start at second base. Caden Clark, a sophomore, is at shortstop, with Derek Walker and Overmeyer set to play at third base.
Price, Jack Walker, David Lane and Hampton will team with Whitworth in the outfield.
“We’re looking at Hampton as our leadoff hitter, with Price or Helmkamp hitting second,” Bruening said. “Whitworth will bat third and Carpenter could hit fourth.”
He added, “We’re going to need to be a team on offense that makes contact and moves the runners over. We don’t have a lot of speed, so we want to put the ball in play.”
Bruening said that’s necessary, given the nature of the rugged competition in the six-team Valley. CM was scheduled to open its season Thursday at home against Mount Vernon in a nonconference game.
“Waterloo has three Division I players, Highland is coming off a state championship and Triad will be improved,” Bruening said of the MVC. “I’d like to think that we could be up there in the conference, too.
“We could be a pretty good team.”
And that would suit Bruening fine since he’s considering this season as his final one of coaching the Eagles. Retirement is on the docket, just as it was after the 2011 season. Bruening returned in 2014 and the Eagles went 20-11 before registering their 18-victory campaign in 2015.
Ronny Alesandrini OF
Derek Walker IF, P
Jack Walker P, OF
John Whitworth OF, P
Brandon Carpenter C, 1B
Collin Hall 3B, P
Brandon Hampton P, OF
Jaxsen Helmkamp 2B, 3B
David Lane OF
Konnar Loewen C
Dalton Myers IF, P
Collin Overmeyer IF, P
Trevor Panyik OF, P
Caden Clark SS
Spencer Powell OF, P
Christian Stawar P, IF
Geoffrey Withers IF, P
Bryce Zupan C, IF
March 18 — at Belleville East, 4:15 p.m.
March 19 — at Edwardsville, 11 a.m.
March 22 — at Breese Central, 4:15 p.m.
March 24 — vs. Southwestern, 4:15 p.m.
March 26 — vs. Alton (DH), 11 a.m.
March 30 — at Mater Dei, 4:15 p.m.
March 31 — at Freeburg, 4:30 p.m.
April 2 — at McCluer North (2), 11 a.m.
April 4 — at Collinsville, 4:30 p.m.
April 5 — vs. Greenville, 4:30 p.m.
April 7 — vs. EA-WR, 4:15 p.m.
April 8 — vs. O’Fallon, 4:15 p.m.
April 9 — at Staunton (2), 11 a.m.
April 11 — at Mascoutah*, 4:15 p.m.
April 12 — vs. Marquette Catholic, 4:15 p.m.
April 13 — vs. Jersey*, 4:15 p.m.
April 16 — at Roxana (2), 11 a.m.
April 18 — at Highland*, 4:15 p.m.
April 19 — at MELHS, 4:30 p.m.
April 20 — vs. Waterloo*, 4:15 p.m.
April 22 — vs. Granite City, 4:15 p.m.
April 25 — at Triad*, 4:15 p.m.
April 27 — vs. Mascoutah*, 4:15 p.m.
April 28 — vs. Gibault, 4:15 p.m.
May 2 — at Jersey*, 4:30 p.m.
May 4 — vs. Highland*, 4:15 p.m.
May 9 — at Waterloo*, 4:15 p.m.
May 11 — vs. Triad*, 4:15 p.m.
May 13 — at Gillespie, 4:15 p.m.
May 17 — vs. Columbia, 4:15 p.m.
*Denotes conference games