GCMS baseball brings experienced roster to 2019 season

GIBSON CITY -- The first week of games for the 2019 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley baseball team were canceled, as the Falcons spent Friday's practice in the high school gymnasium.
 
The first week had three games on the schedule for GCMS.
 
"At this point, we're just excited to try to get outside, get out of the gym and stop the monotony of what we're doing here," GCMS head coach Dustin White said. "There's a lot of things you can look really good doing in the gym, but at some point, you've got to get out and hopefully get on a field and see how things work, but we've got a lot of guys working really hard, and hopefully here in the next few days, we'll be able to get outside and do something positive with it."
 
Once they get outside to their home field, the Falcons see an upgraded field at GCMS Middle School via a new scoreboard built in the honor of Roy Roemer, a GCMS superfan who died in the fall of 2017 and who left a donation of $136,000 to the school district that was announced last July.
 
"I'm very excited to have it. Roy was just a huge influence on the community and the GCMS athletic program," White said. "They're great additions. They take what I feel is one of the best playing surfaces and fields in the area and just makes a major upgrade to it. We really have a top-notch facility, and that just added to it."
The GCMS team, meanwhile, is one returning a handful of starters from last year.
 
"We've got a good group of guys," White said. "We've got, essentially, almost everybody returning, or at least, the main crop of guys who have two- or three-year starters. Our senior class is filled with some good players who have some experience. We've got juniors who have now played in the program for two years."
 
The Falcons went 11-15 last year, with six of their losses -- including a 4-2 loss to Tri-Valley in the IHSA Class 2A regoinal semifinals -- via a run differential of two or less.
 
"We've had some big wins. We've also lost a few of those close games over the last couple of years. Hopefully, with more veteran leadership and another year of size and strength and all that kind of stuff, we'll win those closer games and continue to win the games we should win," White said. "That's a lot to be excited about."
 
The Falcons welcome back their top two pitchers from last season.
 
Senior Nathan Garard, who is in his fourth year as a varsity starter, had a 2.2 ERA with 49 striekouts through 41 1/3 innings pitched last season while sophomore Braden Roesch struck out 42 batters and had a 3.19 ERA through 41 2/3 innings pitched last year as a freshman.
 
"Braden, as a sophomore, is a little more understanding of what the varsity game brings and how much he has to be focused going into it," White said.
 
Layne Harden, who had one save and a 2-1 record while posting a 1.27 ERA and 13 strikeouts through 11 innings pitched in a closer role last year, comes back for his senior year.
 
"When you have your No. 1 and No.2 (pitcher) coming back, plus your closer, there's a lot to be really excited about," White said. "We've got some other guys who have looked really good in the gym pitching-wise who, because of the innings that Ty Walker threw last year, didn't have to get a lot of innings. Because the weather was kind of spread out and we had games canceled periodically, we were able to throw our Nos. 1, 2 and 3 a lot. We now have a long group of guys who can pitch. They haven't had a ton of varsity innings, but they're capable of doing that."
 
Pitching depth will come in handy as the IHSA is in its third baseball season under new pitch-count rules that includes a 105-pitch maximum limit per pitcher.
 
"You never have enough pitching, and I think at this point, we have a ton of guys who can give us some quality innings, so that's a good sign, too," White said. "We understand a little bit more of how many guys you really have to have in your system who can give you some good, quality innings and the importance of having one, two or three main relievers who can come in at the end of a ballgame and shut somebody down. It's really rare for somebody to go the full seven (innings), so you need to have a relief core."
 
Junior Daniel Jones, GCMS's leadoff hitter, is in his third year as a starter in the program. Last year, Jones hit .274 with five RBIs and 21 runs scored.  
 
"We're excited about him," White said. "He did a great job for us last year. We're really happy to have him back."
 
Next week, GCMS is scheduled to play at Hoopeston Area on Monday and host Clifton Central on Wednesday before traveling to face Cissna Park on the road at 10 a.m. the following Saturday.
 
"This week was really bad. I think we're probably going to lose some of those games early next week," White said. "We've got a couple of doubleheaders. There are a lot of times when you're going to need some guys to give you some good innings, and hopefully you can get that. 
 
"Looking good in the gym -- how does that translate to an in-game situation and feeling and that intensity level when that guy's able to put the ball in play at you."
 
The Falcons are scheduled to host Waukegan, a Class 4A school, on Tuesday, March 26. 
 
"It's going to be a huge measuring stick for us," White said. "It should be a fun game to see how good we are."
 
After hosting Monticello on Friday, March 29, GCMS will host Tuscola -- which finished third in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament last year -- and Prairie Central in a triangular event on Saturday, March 30.
 
"Tuscola is always a very good program," White said. "They're in a situation for us to see where we're at early on in the season. When you play two big-time programs like that in the first 2-3 weeks of your season, it gives you a good idea of what you're doing well and what you need to work on and how your kids are going to respond to those bigger moments. 
 
"It can set you in a good way confidence-wise if you can play those games really well and competitively and you can win a couple of those. It gives you a lot of confidence and gives you something to look back on to say that we can play with everybody else."
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports

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