Photo by Diane Cox
Pictured is the 2016 Marquette varsity baseball squad. Members of the Explorers are: Trey Aguirre, Eric Davis, Marc Davis, Jacob File, Adam Hammond, James Jernigan, Kevin Lloyd, Shane Nichols, Brock Terry, Adam Harrison, Liam Maher, Brady McAfee, Nick Messinger, Konnor Morrissey, Michael Neel, Matthew Newton, Zach Weinman, Johnathan Blachford, Montana Gossage, Jayce Maag and Luke Simmons. Also pictured is head coach Tim Fahnestock and assistant coaches Steve Angelo and Don Minor.
The Marquette Catholic Explorers enjoyed a late-season surge in 2015, racing to an 18-12 finish.
That bodes well for a team that returns much of its younger stock from a year ago.
“We're going to be pretty young this year, but with (Jacob) File and Kevin Lloyd coming back we've got some good senior leadership,” Marquette head coach Tim Fahnestock said. “ Our junior class is real strong with (Brady) McAfee, (Liam) Maher, Mike Neel and (Zach) Weinman and we've got some good sophomores in the mix. I think we're going to have a good year. We're going to have to find our feet and we may have a rough patch at the beginning until we get on our legs.”
Maybe the biggest holes come on the pitching mound, where the departure of ace Max Goepel and No. 2 John Hughes will be felt. Goepel was 9-3 and threw a team-best 74 innings, while Hughes was 3-5 in 57.1 innings pitched. Both worked the majority of innings for the Explores, logging 22 of the 30 starts combined.
“I'm going to lean on McAfee,” Fahnestock said in replacing Goepel and Hughes. “He has to step up and be our man and I think he can eat up a lot of innings for us. I think he's matured in the last year and I hope he can step in and fill that role and we can get two good years out of him.
“Max Goepel had a year last year that was just phenomenal and he came out of nowhere because we really thought John Hughes would be our top gun. (This year) I think File's going to have a good senior year, Maher and Neel will eat some innings up and Kevin Lloyd had a good junior year and I think he's going to step in eat some innings for us.”
Offensively, the big departures will be Danny Holtz and Jacob Eggering. Holtz hit .364 with a team-best 4 homers and 20 RBIs. Eggering batted .350 with 18 RBIs.
Maher was the team leader in batting average at .369 and drove in 16 just as a sophomore. He'll be key to the offense, while Weinman (.262, 9 RBIs) was the catalyst at the top of the order and played stellar at shortstop. File hit .295 as a junior and should be key this season, along with Nick Messinger, Neel and McAfee who saw a good amount of time for Marquette last season.
Even looking deeper, Fahnestock sees some sophomores stepping up in '16 to help fill roles.
“We've got a couple sophomores with Jayce Maag, John Blachford and Luke Simmons,” Fahnestock said. “Luke's going to be a strong sophomore pitcher for us. He's got to do some maturing but I think he'll be a good starter for us.”
The Explorers will remain in Class 3A for the playoffs, so Fahnestock stacked the schedule. They were scheduled to open Wednesday at 4A powerhouse O'Fallon. At 4:30 p.m. today they play 4A Granite City in their home opener at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park. Marquette heads to 3A Triad at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“It's a good schedule,” Fahnestock said. “I think people kind of look at it like, why? Wins are important, but being the best team we can be is the most important thing for me. The kids know it and that's a good, competitive schedule and I think they like it.
“We're still 3A, which is good. It's good competition. Who won state (Highland) came out of our regional, so I think it's going to be competitive again. I think Jersey and CM will be solid, Highland will be solid. We'll mix it up and see what happens.”
Trey Aguirre 1B, 2B, OF
Eric Davis P, 2B
Marc Davis P, OF
Jacob File P, OF
Adam Hammond OF
James Jernigan 2B
Kevin Lloyd P, 3B
Shane Nichols 3B
Brock Terry 3B
Adam Harrison P, OF
Liam Maher C, P, 3B
Brady McAfee P, OF
Nick Messinger P, 2B
Konnor Morrissey 1B
Michael Neel C, P, 3B
Matthew Newton P, 1B
Zach Weinman SS
Johnathan Blachford OF, P
Montana Gossage IF, P
Jayce Maag 2B, SS, OF
Luke Simmons P, OF
March 18 — vs. Granite City, 4:30 p.m.
March 19 — at Triad, 11 a.m.
March 21 — at Metro East Lutheran*, 4:30 p.m.
March 22 — at Dupo, 4:30 p.m.
March 26 — vs. Calhoun (DH), 11 a.m.
March 30 — vs. Columbia, 4:30 p.m.
March 31 — at Bunker Hill*, 4:30 p.m.
April 2 — at Okwaville (DH), 10 a.m.
April 4 — at Gibault, 4:30 p.m.
April 6 — vs. Mascoutah, 4:30 p.m.
April 7 — vs. Jersey, 4:30 p.m.
April 11 — vs. Mount Olive*, 4:30 p.m.
April 12 — at Civic Memorial, 4:30 p.m.
April 14 — vs. Greenville, 4:30 p.m.
April 15 — vs. Shiocton, Wis., 4 p.m.
April 18 — vs. Litchfield, 4:30 p.m.
April 20 — vs. Hillsboro, 4:30 p.m.
April 22 — vs. Nokomis*, 4:30 p.m.
April 25 — vs. EA-WR*, 4:30 p.m.
April 27 — at Roxana, 4:30 p.m.
April 29 — vs. Jacksonville Routt, 4:30 p.m.
April 30 — vs. Cahokia (DH), 10 a.m.
May 1 — vs. Salem (at Busch Stadium), 4:30 p.m.
May 2 — vs. Althoff, 4:30 p.m.
May 6 — at EA-WR, 4:30 p.m.
May 7 — at Vianney (DH), 5 p.m.
May 10 — vs. Staunton, 4:30 p.m.
May 14 — at Rochester (DH), 11 a.m.
May 16 — at Freeburg, 4:30 p.m.