By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s baseball and softball teams last took the diamond one year, 11 months and five days ago. Yep that’s 100 weeks, or 697 days since they have kicked the dirt around in an actual game. That all ends this week as baseball coach Adam Carver’s squad opens 2021 on Monday, April 19 and the Lady Warriors welcome in Tuscola Alum Sam Ledbetter’s North Central team from Farmersburg, IN and Arcola for a Saturday double-header on April 24.
Both teams will have a lot of new faces and a new look after the seniors last year were robbed of their final season. Carver’s crew returns three players that saw more than a few innings in 2019 on the varsity diamond and five total that logged time while softball will lean on some experience with five seniors returning that played as sophs and a pair of juniors that took some cuts as freshman.
Carver will look to his top returners to shine the light for a young squad. Ben Tiezzi, Patrick Pierce, Nate Koester and Cole Cunningham will eat up a lot of innings on the bump for the Warriors. “All these guys have looked great so far,” stated the coach. “And they will be keys offensively as well. Payton Armstrong, Haven Hatfield and Caden Baer will also be called upon to help us with bats in their hands.”
Sophomore Colton Musgrave will take up residence behind the dish. He has put in a lot of time over the off-season and spent some of his Christmas break catching bullpens for Warrior alums in college. Classmate Easton Cunningham will be called upon to throw some innings and to provide a bat in the lineup. “Colton will be one of the best catchers in the area and a staple in the middle of our order,” Carver commented. “Eastin brings a good left-handed bat adding depth. “
Dalton Addis comes back to TCHS for his senior year and will play up the middle for us, brings a lot of contact at the plate, and will give us some key relief innings. Thomas Brown and Preston Brown are juniors who are joining the program this year. Both of these guys have shown great progress over the first couple of weeks of practice and will be big parts of the roster. Dylan Shinn is a junior who will help on the mound this year. Rohan Patel and Tytus Rennert join the program as seniors this year and will play in the outfield. Jayden Gaines could see some time in the middle infield for the black and gold this year.
“We have very little varsity baseball experience as a whole. That being said, each day I grow more and more confident in these guys. We have had two days of live at-bats so far, and we are pitching it really, really well,” quipped the coach. “Our offense is continuing to improve, and I feel we will be a very strong offensive team by the end of the season. We have to shore some things up on the defensive side of the ball, but I feel strongly that this team will be able to make a deep run into the postseason this year. This will be an exciting team to watch, so get out to Ervin Park this spring.”
On the softball diamond the Lady Warriors welcome back one of the top pitchers in central Illinois in Kaitlyn Reifsteck. The Eastern Illinois University commit was one of the leaders in strikeouts in the area as a sophomore. Joining her in the circle will be junior Kerri Pierce and sophomore Isabelle Wilcox both will eat up some innings and will spend time in the infield and the outfield while providing punch to the lineup.
Senior Kendyl Ring, Jessie Martin, Kendal Morgan and Marissa Russo will join with Reifsteck in leading the team. Ring patrolled centerfield as a freshman and sophomore and will be hit from the left side somewhere near the top of the lineup. Martin should hold down the hot corner but shows the versatility to play just about anywhere in the field. The Olney College commit will also reside at the top of the order. Morgan held down first base as a sophomore and will be there again this season and Russo will take up residence behind the plate as part of the battery. The senior catcher has a cannon for an arm and both her and Morgan showed promise with the bat in a scrimmage game last week.
Taylor Musgrave saw time in the outfield as a freshman but looks to move into the infield this season to second base. Sophomore Ella Boyer didn’t get to show what she could do this year but after a big summer on the diamond she has earned a shot at shortstop during the preseason. The duo turned a great double play in Saturday’s scrimmage game. Both provide power at the plate with the ability to spread the ball around.
Another second year player looking to donate will be Marley Good. She also has some power, an aggressive bat and will push for some innings at catcher and possibly elsewhere. Makenna Fiscus and Hailey Downs are two more that missed their freshman campaign but have looked good in batting practice and could see some time at the varsity level. Claire Meyer, another soph, has shown promise as well. Seven freshmen join the program this spring. Addyson Ring, Molly Macauley and Zoey Thomason could get some opportunities at some point during the year and will be anchors on the JV team. Marissa Boyer has a big bat and will also donate at the JV level as well as Emily Czerwonka, Katie Gibson and Maddie Ramos.