Diverse, that word is an understatement when it comes to the 2014 Jacksonville High School baseball team. This is a new year, with a new coach, a new team, and a new mentality. With all these changes to a team that has been so successful in years past people may think ‘O, they won’t be any good this year’ or ‘They lost their coach from last season, they’ll be lucky to stay above .500’. If you were to ask the seven seniors returning from last season how they thought this year would be going as of right now, they would have each told you that they would have been sitting at a perfect record. Well, if you’ve read the papers that is exactly where they are at, currently 6-0 (2-0 in the Central State Eight Conference).
The new Jacksonville Crimsons varsity baseball team consists of seven seniors (Floyd Lomelino IV, Justin Renoud, Tyler Ring, Collin Ryals, Clayton Werries, Kody Wood, and Dustin Woodcock), two juniors (Matthew Jackson and Conor Stremlau), two sophomores (Braxton Criss and Noah Pickens), and two freshmen (Adam Hillis and Klay Wood). The team is lead by first year varsity skipper Cory Bunner. Coach Bunner, who was a standout athlete at JHS before graduating in 2004, is now putting his mark on the program he once played for. The thing about his “new” team is that they aren’t very new at all, in fact, the seniors have been playing together for 5+ years because of summer travel teams. Over those years they have all matured and developed into the talented, but very different group of young men. Every single player on this team is unique in their own way, whether you’re the funny guy, the guy who’s missing teeth, or the guy with the fluffy beard. With all the diversity on one team you would think it would be hard for them to get along, but if you were to be around them at a practice you would think otherwise. You can tell, they are a team first and individuals second, that is a tone that has been set by this group of seniors from the beginning.
Every team has its worries when a new season starts, but when the 2014 Crimsons took the field for their first game at Lenz Field against Macomb, any unsettled differences were dropped right then and there. If you don’t believe this year’s varsity team will be good, perhaps scoring 10 runs in the first inning will put those doubts aside. Macomb was a short inning game with the Crimsons winning 13-3 in just 6 innings of play. Kody Wood picked up the first win of the season with 6 strike outs in just 3 innings with Adam Hillis closing the final innings. The offense was led by Wood (HR), Tyler Ring and Matt Jackson all picking up two hits.
Even though the stats make it seem like they played great, they knew there was still work to do in the upcoming Lenz Field Class 3A/4A School Tournament that upcoming weekend. While only having a 13-man roster, they held their own against schools with 20 to 25-man rosters. The Crimsons started off the tournament with an 11-0 win over Thornton Fractional South High School behind the dominant pitching of Dustin Woodcock and Matt Jackson; they also received a bit of run support from Tyler Ring, who went 4 for 4, and Conor Stremlau, who picked up his first hit as a Crimson. The following day, the Crimsons took on Eric Solorio Academy and came out with a 7-0 win led by the outstanding pitching performances of Clayton Werries and Adam Hillis. The Crimson’ offense was led by Kody Wood (2B, 3B, 2 RBIs, 2 R), Floyd Lomelino IV (3 Hits, 4 R), and Dustin Woodcock (2B, 3 RBIs). The nightcap was against Morris High School. The Crimsons poured it on Morris by winning 11-3, Tyler Ring led the way on the hill (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 K) and at the plate (3-5, 2 RBIs, 2 R). Dustin Woodcock (2 for 3 with a double, 3 RBIs, 2 R) and Kody Wood (4 for 4 with an RBI, 3 R, and 3 SB) also contributed at the plate. Matt Jackson came in to close his second game of the weekend.
The next week the Crimsons began CS8 Conference play on Wednesday against Rochester High School. The first contest ended 7-6 in the Crimsons favor with Clayton Werries picking up his 2nd win of the year by striking out 6 Rocket batters in 4 1/3 innings and was relieved by Tyler Ring for the final 2 2/3 innings. Justin Renoud went 2 for 3, Floyd Lomelino went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs, and Collin Ryals had a homerun to lead the Crimsons offensively. Thursday’s final game of the series ended 4-3 with the Crimsons coming from behind to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the 7th inning. Justin Renoud had a strong outing as a starting pitcher going 4 innings and Adam Hillis relieved him for the final 3 innings while picking up his 1st career varsity win. Renoud also led the come from behind charge at the plate where he went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs and scoring the game-winning run.
It has been a great start to the 2014 Crimson Baseball season. However, the team knows it needs to only take one game at a time and take nothing for granted. That starts again this week as the high school is on spring break, baseball stays in full swing with 6 games during that time including two huge conference games against rival SHG. While many teams would sit back and think about starting off so strong, this team is hungry for the next game. Diverse? Maybe, but it looks more like 13 individual personalities, one team, and what looks to be one exciting season.