Note to readers: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, IHSA baseball activities have been suspended for the time being.
Putnam County baseball coach Chris Newsome welcomes 14 varsity players for the 2020 season with a number of players back who provide power, speed and average.
“I think we’re going to have a nice balance of power and average throughout the lineup this season,” Newsome said. “Not a lot of teams at any level of high school have that and this year I think we do along with some experience, so we’ll see what happens.”
The Panthers have a couple of All Tri-County Conference selections leading the way. First-team selection and recent Danville Community College signee Luke Olson returns at pitcher.
Olson, a hard-throwing right hander who will anchor the Panthers’ rotation, pitched 26 1/3 innings with a 4.78 ERA last season. He also hit .310.
Jakob Pyszka also returns at pitcher after earning Second-Team All-Tri-County Conference last year.
“Both kids just love the game of baseball,” Newsome said. “Pyszka is a very quick player who can hopefully steal some bases for us as well and will most likely spend the majority of time at shortstop.”
The Panthers also welcome back Brayden Holmes, who developed into a nice shortstop for Putnam County the past three years, but he will slide over to second base this spring.
“He started out playing shortstop out of necessity and then developed into a pretty good one for us,” Newsome said. “But he was in a nasty motocross accident in the fall and hurt his wrist so he’ll slide over to second. Thankfully, swinging the bat doesn’t bother his wrist though.”
Seniors Jacob Williams and Max Megana will play key roles. Williams will pitch and man center field, while Megana will play first, third and catcher.
Kyle Gorisek saw some time on the mound last season but will log more innings this spring. He’ll also see time at third base.
Jacob Wiesbrock, who Newsome described as a contact hitter who provides speed on the base paths, will man a corner outfield spot.
Ben Cyr is the only southpaw in the PC bullpen.
“Ben is golfer No. 1,” Newsome said. “That’s his first priority. He doesn’t pick up a baseball before or after the season, but once he gets back in the groove, he’s a good spot pitcher for us.”
Sophomore Chris Uzella and junior Stephen Mecagni are battling for the starting catcher position.
“As a former pitcher, I love having a three-year starter at catcher to build that relationship with your pitchers,” Newsome said. “Both receive really well. Chris probably has a stronger arm, but it might come down to situations and who is hitting better.”
Pyszka is expected to hit for a high average as will Olson, but Olson will provide power as well.
Holmes will be another nice bat for Putnam County and Magagna will be expected to contribute at the plate. Gorisek showed some pop in early practices.
“Both Williams and Wiesbrock are more of put the ball in play kind of guys,” Newsome said.
“We also have guys who can provide power behind them, so it’s a nice mix of average, speed and power in the lineup. But I guarantee the lineup in game one will not be the lineup we end up with at the end of the year. We’ll see how things shape up over the course of the season.”
Newsome said Marquette, which won the Class 1A state title last year, is again the favorite in the Tri-County Conference.
“I would be a fool if I didn’t say Marquette is the favorite,” Newsome said. “Coming off a state championship and only losing one or whatever it was, but they’re good and I thought we played them very tough. They know they have the bullseye on their back. Roanoke-Benson was young, but now should have some experience to go with that talent. Peoria Christian plays tough. Not necessarily the best in conference, but plays us tough. Henry lost a lot, but the (Ethan) Condit kid is pretty good. There is no off night in this conference. It’s pretty tough.”