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Five from Morris, three from Minooka lead All-Area baseball team

Selecting an all-area team is not an easy task. Some people like to look at raw numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story. Are big offensive numbers racked up against a schedule not laden with quality pitchers the same as numbers that don’t look as impressive, but were amassed against some of the best pitching around? Similarly, a pitcher with a gaudy number of wins might have faced the oppositions’ second or third-best pitchers, allowing for his offense to score more runs in his support.

The eye test certainly comes into play. If you put a player who is a standout on a team that isn’t as good as some of the others in area on the area’s best team, would he be able to find a spot to play? Most of the time, the answer is yes. A good player will find a spot to play. Talent takes over and the results start to come. There are no guarantees, though.

Since two of the area’s teams (Morris, Coal City) would have played Class 3A state champion Lemont in the state tournament had they kept winning and Minooka, in Class 4A, consistently plays teams of that caliber, here are the players who The Morris Daily Herald would feel comfortable fielding a team against Lemont with. Here is the Morris Daily Herald 2014 All-Area Team:


Trevor Lines, Morris, Sr., SS: Headed to Creighton on academic scholarship because of perfect 36 ACT score, but guaranteed a spot on baseball team... Hit .345 with three doubles and 15 RBis... Struck out just six times as No. 3 hitter in lineup... Stole 10 bases without being caught... Solidifying force in middle of diamond defensively... Coach Todd Kein: “Trevor is a great role model, not only for our team, but any young player who came to watch our games. He is someone who does every single thing we do in our program the right way.”

Tim Smyk, Morris, Sr., 3B/P: Led team in hitting with .383 average. Also team highs with 34 RBIs and five home runs from cleanup spot... On the mound, went 4-3 with 2.05 ERA... Struck out 45 and walked 29 in 511⁄3 innings... Will play for Illinois Wesleyan... Coach Todd Kein: “If we had a comeback player of the year, it would be Tim. He was solely a pitcher last year and got hurt. He had to re-establish himself as a hitter this year, and once he did, he got a lot of big hits for us throught the season.”

Nick Evola, Morris, Sr., P: Went 9-4 with 2.13 ERA... Got the ball in almost all of the Redskins’ most important games... Led team with 752⁄3 innings pitched... Recorded team-high 89 strikeouts against 29 walks... Will play for Joliet Junior College... Coach Todd Kein: “Nick flat-out knows how to pitch. If it was a big game, he wanted to be out there, and he really proved himself to us as a coaching staff and to his teammates. We were a better team when he was on the mound.”

Austin Conrod, Morris, Sr., OF: Led team with 49 hits... Batted .377 with five doubles, one homer and 26 RBIs... Coach Todd Kein: “Austin has been a solid performer for us for two years. He is one of the best bunters I have ever coached. He always had the green light to bunt and he did it very successfully for us quite often.”

Geno Persico, Morris, Sr., C: Hit .325 with 2 doubles, one home run and 9 RBIs... Strong presence defensively behind plate... Coach Todd Kein: “Geno was our glue. We have two pitchers on our staff [Nick Evola and Cody Niewinski] who throw a lot of balls in the dirt, and that’s by design because we know Geno will block them. He called the game himself most of the time, which is becoming rarer and rarer. We will certainly miss his presence behind the plate.”

Neal Tyrell, Minooka, Sr., SS: Hit .417 ... scored 35 runs and drove in 14 in 32 games from leadoff spot .... OPS of 1.048, on-base percentage of .492, slugging .556 ... Struck out eight times in 127 at-bats ... Had 10 doubles ... Will play at Lewis... Coach Jeff Petrovic: “In all my years of coaching, and this is my 18th year, I have never seen a smarter player. He is really, really hard-nosed and smart. A lot of pitchers dominate games, but rarely do you see a position player who dominates games like Neal does.He was a terror on the base paths. He is a really special player, for sure.”

Mitch Vogrin, Minooka, Sr., P: Went 9-0 with one save and a 1.15 ERA ... Allowed 33 hits and 22 walks in 67 innings for a WHIP of 0.821 ... Struck out 85 ... Standout linebacker in football ... Will pitch at Illinois State... Coach Jeff Petrovic: “Mitch played four years for me. He is a terrific kid. People don’t realize what a tough kid he was. He is the type of kid you want in the lineup every day. That’s why we had him in the outfield when he wasn’t piching. He was a dominant pitcher this year. He was 9-0 and really in all the games he pitched, we never felt like we were going to lose.”

Cristian Sanchez, Minooka, Jr., OF: Hit .292 in 26 games because didn’t play on Saturdays for religious reasons. Finished with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 23 RBIs.

Brad Littleton, Coal City, Soph., P/OF: Hit .337 with team-high four home runs. Added four doubles and four home runs... Went 7-3 with two saves on the mound... In 60 innings, allowed 51 hits and 39 walks while striking out 69... Coach Jerry McDowell: “Brad was our top pitcher and overall hitter.”

Lane Cowherd, Coal City, Sr., OF: Hit .356 with four doubles, two triples, 17 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 31 attempts... Named all-Interstate Eight... Coach Jerry McDowell: “Lane is the all-time leader in stolen bases at Coal City High School.”

D.J. Budde, Coal City, Jr., Utility: Played a variety of positions defensively... Led team with .360 average to go with five doubles, a triple and 20 RBIs. Also stole five bases in six attempts... “D.J. led the team in batting average, was our leadoff hitter and was the team’s most versatile player.”

Blake Marks, Gardner-South Wilmington, Jr., P: Went 8-3 with a save and 1.41 ERA in 64 2⁄3 innings. Struck out 90 and walked 32 while allowing 50 hits... Coach Todd Grieff: “I don’t need to say much about Blake. He is one of the best pitchers in the area and got better as the year went on. He’s 6-foot-3, throws hard, has a good curve and the numbers show that.”

Jack Davidson, Gardner-South Wilmington, Jr., OF: Hit .370 with two doubles, 11 RBIs, 24 runs scored and 28-for-28 in stolen bases... Coach Todd Grieff: “Jack hit in the No. 3 hole for us. He would typically get on base, steal second and third and manufacture a run on his own. He is lightning fast, tracks the ball well in the outfield, has a good arm and saved many runs with his defensive play in center.”

Austin Applebee, Seneca, Sr., P/OF: Hit team-leading .337 with four doubles and 13 RBIs... Went 3-3 on the mound with 4.33 ERA. Struck out 47 in 42 innings... All-Interstate Eight... Will play football and baseball for McKendree College... Coach Kirk Houchin: “Austin led us in batting average and will represent Seneca High School on the I-8 All-Star Team.”

Matt Eike, Newark, Jr., OF: Hit .449 with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 29 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and 31 runs scored... Normally a catcher, but a finger injury forced him to play the outfield this season... Coach J.R. Veliz: “Even when Matt made an out, he hit the ball hard. I can’t imagine what his numbers would be like if he hand’t injured his finger. Still, he didn’t miss one inning this year.”


Matt Walker, Morris, Soph., P: Late-season call-up, but earned his stripes quicky... Went 4-0 with 0.23 ERA, including win in regional title game... In 30 innings, recorded 27 strikeouts against just five walks and allowed only one earned run.

Tyler Bordner, Morris, Jr., OF: Hit .330 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and 15 RBIs.

Cody Niewinski, Morris, Jr., P: Went 7-1 with 2.10 ERA. In 50 innings, struck out 38 and walked 10.

Tyler Desmarais, Minooka, sr., C: Hit .258, but was outstanding defensively.

Alex Wills, Coal City, Sr., 1B: Hit .312 with five doubles and 15 RBIs. Three-year starter for Coalers.

Joe Quinn, Coal City, Sr., OF: Led the Coalers in extra-base hits with 12 (8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs) and had 21 RBIs.

Matt Houchin, Seneca, Jr., C: Hit .300 with six doubles, a triple and 17 RBIs. Threw out 25 would-be base-stealers in 35 games and won a Gold Glove award in the Interstate Eight Conference.

Brandon Pasdertz, Seneca, Sr., P: Went 3-6 despite a 3.35 ERA. Struck out 61 in 60 2⁄3 innings. Lost four games (Pleasant Plains, Westmont, Coal City, Fieldcrest) by one run each.

Brandon Viken, Seneca, Jr., SS/P: Hit .333, second on the team, with six doubles, a triple and 15 RBIs... Was 2-5 on the mound with 3.27 ERA.

Brandon Elens, Gardner-South Wilmington, Jr., P: Went 4-6 despite a 1.75 ERA. Struck out 61 in 56 innings. Walked 40 and allowed 56 hits.

Mitch Schmidt, Newark, Soph., 2B: Hit .422 with 12 doubles, 21 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

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