GCMS baseball scheduled to start season this week

GIBSON CITY -- The boys' athletic teams at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School have enjoyed a lot of success in the 2017-18 school year.
 
The school's football team won a state championship with an undefeated record in the fall. In the winter, the Falcons' boys basketball team won the Heart of Illinois Conference title while posting a 25-4 record.
 
As some players from the football and basketball teams transition to baseball, GCMS head baseball coach Dustin White hopes the Falcons' success in the fall and winter can carry over to the spring.
 
“I hope so. I think that winning breeds more winning. The attitude of winning breeds the attitude of winning. You have to learn how to win. You have to learn how to finish a game out and close a game out. We've got some of those kids who played on the football team. We've got some kids who played on the basketball team at different junior varsity or varsity levels," White said. 
 
"Hopefully, that winning mentality carries over. I think with this group, it will. I think they're excited to get going and excited to play. This group of kids just likes to compete and see what they can do against everybody else, and that makes for a fun practice because everybody works really hard. That can hopefully translate into game time when you're trying to find any way you can to be better than the competition.”
 
Last year, GCMS's baseball team finished with a record of 11-12-2 and a loss in the IHSA Class 2A regional quarterfinals. This year, White said he has greater expectations.
 
“I'm really looking forward to the season. For me, it's pretty high hopes this year," White said. "The group that we have is a pretty solid group of kids. I've got what I think is a pretty good crop of talent, so we're pretty excited.” 
 
The Falcons have three seniors returning to the squad: Ty Walker, Alec Johnson and Nick Tabor.
 
Walker had a 1-2 record, a save and a 6.72 earned-run average on the mound last year with 13 strikeouts through 25 innings pitched as of May 14. Johnson hit .239 at the plate with 10 runs batted in, 10 runs scored and five stolen bases.
 
Tabor hit .246 while posting a .442 on-base percentage through 77 plate appearances while driving in eight runs and scoring nine. On the mound, he had a 10.5 ERA and five strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings. 
 
“All three of those guys have played pretty good roles for the last year," White said.
 
Nathan Garard -- who was the football team's starting quarterback last fall -- returns as well for his junior season.
 
Last year, Garard had a .343 batting average, a home run, a team-high 22 RBIs, 14 runs scored and eight stolen bases at the plate. On the mound, he posted a 3.19 ERA with a 2-3 record and 32 strikeouts.
 
“That's four guys who are returning that have played pretty substantial innings for us the last couple of years," White said. “(Garard and Walker are) both two of our better pitchers, so it'll be nice to have some guys back who have thrown some innings for us on the mound and have a little experience with what we're doing.”
 
Daniel Jones returns for his sophomore season after posting a team-best 4-1 record on the mound with a 3.23 ERA and 24 strikeouts through 30 1/3 innings pitched.
 
“He pitched a lot for us," White said.
 
Braden Roesch will join the Falcons' pitching staff as a freshman. 
 
“He has really looked good at this point," White said. "He's a big, tall, left-handed kid. We're really excited about him.”
 
Lane Short was a junior varsity-level pitcher last year who now looks to show his stuff on the varsity level.
 
“He has looked really good in the gym,” White said.
 
According to White, GCMS also has 2-3 other guys “who, we think, can be some good relievers.” 
 
Layne Harden pitched 7 1/3 innings last year with 10 strikeouts.
 
“In the gym, he has looked really good," White said. "I think we could be the deepest pitching staff that we've had. With this new pitch-count rule, you've got to have all sorts of guys. We've got 9-10 guys who can throw and give us some innings, so that's one thing I'm really excited about.
 
“That is probably one of the things that I think we'll be the most solid at. I think the pitching rotation will be very good. I think it'll be a huge asset for us.”
 
As a team, GCMS hit .280 and scored 139 runs last year.
 
“Offensively, we've looked better here as of late. Garard has looked really good. We've got a few other kids who have worked pretty solid, but we haven't seen anything live yet or been outside," White said. 
 
"I think one of the things we're going to have to do is really put the ball in play. There were times last year when we just had too many strikeouts with people in scoring position, so that's something we've got to correct.”
 
The Falcons also stole 55 bases as a team.
 
“We do have a decent amount of team speed, so if we can get some guys on, we can make some things happen. If we can put the ball in play, use our legs a little bit and force a defense to maybe have to be a quicker than they want to be, maybe they'll get an error, or somebody will find a way to get on," White said. 
 
"We've got a lot of speed on the team. Hopefully, we can find a way to take advantage of that.”
 
Over at least a majority of the first two weeks of practice, the weather forced the Falcons to stay away from their baseball field.
 
On Monday, they did some drills on a blacktop and in a grassy area on the GCMS Elementary School property.
 
“If only we can just get this weather turned around a little bit now so we can get outside and do some things," White said Monday. "Sometimes, the gym gives you some false expectations. You seem really good against a pitch machine, but hopefully, when we get outside, we'll be able to see what we really have."
 
The weather did not improve in the immediate future as GCMS's season opener at home against Bloomington Central Catholic, which was originally schedule for Tuesday, was already canceled by Monday due to a wet field and projected cold weather with strong winds.
 
“Nobody wants to have that," White said Monday. “The first couple of weeks (in the gym, you can handle it, but when you get beyond that, then the walls kind of start closing in on you a little bit."
 
The Falcons are schedule to travel to Ridgeview on Thursday and Maroa-Forsyth on Friday. 
 
“Hopefully, we can get those two games in and we can see where we're at, see what we've got going with a conference game right off the bat with Ridgeview and then a really good test against a good team in Maroa," White said.
 
The Falcons' HOIC schedule will continue on Monday, April 2, at Fisher and Wednesday, April 4, at Tremont. On Friday, April 6, GCMS will host LeRoy.
 
“There are always good teams in the HOIC, and there's always a team that kind of comes up and surprises you," White said. "Tremont is always really good. LeRoy always has a solid team. Tri-Valley's got a good crop of people returning on their team.”
 
On Friday, April 13, GCMS will travel to face an El Paso-Gridley team that features senior pitcher Nathan Lavender, who will pitch for the University of Illinois in the spring of 2019..
 
“When he pitches, they're going to be really good," White said.
 
Prior to the game against EP-G, GCMS will host conference foes Blue Ridge on Monday, April 9, and Lexington on Wednesday, April 11.
 
“You just never know. Baseball's that funny game where, if you get somebody's No. 1, everybody can beat anybody on any given day, so you just kind of go out there and see what you can do and, hopefully, play some matchups and find a way to scratch off more runs than the other team," White said. 
 
"If you're at the end of the week and you're throwing your No. 3 pitcher against somebody else, it becomes a roll of the dice.”
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports

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