1 of 2
Team Illini 7U players from top left: Owen Kolesa, Chase Collman, Lyndon Thies, Tate, Powell, Maddox Vanausdoll, Landen Boyd, Dylan Vandiver. From bottom left: Graham Vanausdoll, Hudson Wesley, Christian Albright, Ayden Sepich, Ian Lamb.
2 of 2
Team Illini 8U players from top left: Isaac Smith, Ayden Wesley, Tanner Hokamp, Max McMichael, Jack Starr, Noah Peters. From bottom left: Max Autery, Dawson Lancaster, Brady Jones, Trenton Thompson and Yale Weaver. Missing in photo: Brady Bishop.
The weather is heating up and youth baseball is in full swing. Two local youth teams have seized the opportunity and gotten off to fast starts this spring.
Team Illini 7U, coached by Bethalto resident Josh Collman, is leading the Southwestern Illinois Baseball League (SWIBL) 7U division with a 12-3 mark. After three early losses, the team righted the ship, winning 8 straight league games.
“We have a young roster but all our kids are very athletic,” Collman said. “I think early in the year it took the kids a bit to get acclimated to the speed of the game, but they are hitting mid-season form at the right time. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort these boys have displayed in both practice and at games.”
Recently, Collman took his athletes to Jacksonville’s Lenz Field Play the Turf tournament, where they competed against strong 7U teams from St. Louis and Central and Southern Illinois and came home with third place, moving their overall record to 14-6.
Team Illini 8U, coached by James Autery of Rosewood Heights, has been stymied by rain in recent weeks but carries an 8-1-1 record in SWIBL play. The 8-1-1 record is the best record in the SWIBL 8U North division.
Illini 8U has also competed in several tournaments this season, capturing two first-place finishes, a second-place finish and a consolation championship. Overall, Illini 8U has a record of 23-5-1 this season and the boys are looking forward to showcasing their baseball skills at a tournament in Santa Claus, Ind., in late June.
“We brought boys together from Bethalto, Roxana, Rosewood Heights, Gillespie, Edwardsville, Belleville, Collinsville and St. Charles (Mo.) and they have gelled wonderfully,” Autery said. “We’ve already had three to four wins where we had to fight back from significant deficits. That’s been our calling card early, the never-say-die attitude. From the lead-off hitter to the last hitter, we put together great at-bats and it’s been fun watching each boy develop and improve throughout the year.”