Maple Leafs' baseball team will rely on pitching and defense
The Geneseo baseball team can’t call itself an underdog anymore.
After defeating top-seeded Peoria Notre Dame 4-1 in the regional championship, Geneseo has put itself on the map after winning back-to-back regional championships.
While Geneseo lost several key members from last season’s team to graduation, expectations remain high for they can accomplish this season.
Maple Leafs’ coach Scott Christensen believes this year’s team will be able to rely on its top returning player, pitching and savvy to be a foundation for success.
“We do not have the team speed like we had before,” Christensen said, “We do not have team power like we had before, I told them what we have is guys who know how to play the game.”
That baseball acumen starts with reigning Northern Illinois Big 12 MVP Keaton Rice behind the plate.
Rice has already committed to Bradley University to play baseball in the fall, but Christensen said Rice is ready for a monster season.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team,” Christensen said. “He gets here early, and he stays late. He wants to get extra swings in, and throw the ball extra — he just wants to make himself better.”
After setting a school record for team ERA last season, Christensen returns his 1A and 1B options on the mound with seniors Marshall Rice and Jacob Pauley ready to take the ball in 2017.
In the regional semifinal, Marshall Rice pitched a complete game allowing one unearned run on four hits with five strikeouts.
In the regional championship game, Pauley had a solid outing allowing five hits over six and two-thirds of an inning in the 4-1 victory.
A sophomore, Jaren Brucher will be the Maple Leafs’ third starter, but Geneseo has a wealth of depth at pitcher with 12 players capable of being called upon.
This season, having pitching depth will take on new meaning with the implementation of the IHSA’s pitch count guidelines.
The guidelines were added to protect against injury by capping the number of live pitches a pitcher can throw over the course of a week.
Additionally, the new guidelines outline a scheduled period of rest for pitchers and relievers before they make next start or appearance.
GHS’ Ross Chapman, Trey Johnson, Conner LeGrand and Braden Ries are just a few of the arms the Leafs can call on in relief or making a spot start.
Losing several position players to graduation, the Leafs will try to be more fluid about moving guys around the diamond.
“We want them to compete for positions all year long,” Christensen said. “We are teammates who back each other up while still competing with each other for starting positions.”
Geneseo’s Tyler Thompson, Jordan Anderson, Jordan Jackson and Cade Humphries are just a few of the players who have improved over the summer.
Christensen believes Humphries and Jackson have made big strides toward hitting with power consistently, and they might be able to take advantage of teams trying to pitch around Keaton Rice.
Dylan Pardoe has developed into a good team leader and will take over at shortstop for the Maple Leafs.
Pardoe and Jackson are two players who bring speed to the basepaths, and Johnson and Kyle Toone will be competing for third base duties.
However, Christensen believes the team’s identity won’t be fully flushed out until after the team’s trip to the Myrtle Beach Invite in Florida.
2017 Geneseo varsity baseball roster
1 Dylan Pardoe IF 12
2 Ross Chapman P 12
3 Marshall Rice P/IF 12
4 Braden Robinson P/OF 11
5 Jaren Brucher P/OF 10
6 Cade Humphries OF 12
7 Jordan Jackson OF 12
8 Jordan Anderson P/IF 12
10 Zac Olson C/OF 10
11 Dale Benjamin P 11
12 Kyle Toone IF/C 11
13 Colton Garcia P/IF 10
14 Jacob Pauley P/OF 12
15 Keaton Rice C/OF 12
16 Trey Johnson P/IF 12
17 Kyle Pittenger P 11
20 Conner LeGrand P 12
22 Braden Ries P 12
23 Tyler Thompson IF 12
24 Christian Booth P/OF 11
25 Kyle Wise P/IF 11
Coach: Scott Christensen. Assistants: Jayme Farrell and Jason Rice.
2017 Maple Leafs' baseball schedule
March 18 Freeport at Geneseo (DH) Richmond Hill 11 a.m.
March 21 Alleman Catholic at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
March 22 United Township at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
March 23 Sherrard at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
March 25 Geneseo at M-R DH Monmouth-Roseville HS 11 a.m.
March 28 Geneseo at Rockridge Rockridge High School 4:30 p.m.
March 29 Orion at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
March 31 RI Classic: Geneseo vs. Rock Island Rock Island High School 4:30 p.m.
April 1 RI Classic: Geneseo vs. Hononegah Richmond Hill 11 a.m.
April 5 Geneseo at Sterling Gartner Park 4:30 p.m.
April 6 Sterling at Geneseo (DH) Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
April 10 Geneseo at Myrtle Beach Invite Myrtle Beach, Fla. TBA
April 11 Geneseo at Myrtle Beach Invite Myrtle Beach, Fla. TBA
April 12 Geneseo at Myrtle Beach Invite Myrtle Beach, Fla. TBA
April 17 Geneseo at LaSalle-Peru Veteran’s Park 4:30 p.m.
April 18 LaSalle-Peru at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
April 20 Geneseo at LaSalle-Peru Veteran’s Park 4:30 p.m.
April 24 Rochelle at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
April 25 Geneseo at Rochelle Rochelle High School 4:30 p.m.
April 27 Rochelle at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
April 28 Geneseo at Galesburg Galesburg High School 4:30 p.m.
May 1 Geneseo at Ottawa Ottawa High School 4:30 p.m.
May 2 Ottawa at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
May 4 Geneseo at Ottawa Ottawa High School 4:30 p.m.
May 8 Geneseo at Moline Moline High School 4:30 p.m.
May 9 Geneseo at Sycamore Sycamore High School 4:30 p.m.
May 11 Sycamore at Geneseo Richmond Hill 4:30 p.m.
May 13 Geneseo vs. Bloomington CC St. Bede Academy Invite noon
May 13 Geneseo vs. St. Bede Academy St. Bede Academy Invite 2 p.m.
May 16 Geneseo at United Township UTHS 4:30 p.m.
May 19 Geneseo at Galesburg Invite Galesburg High School TBA
May 20 Geneseo at Galesburg Invite Galesburg High School TBA
May 22 Regional Quarterfinals TBA TBA
May 23 Regional Quarterfinals TBA TBA
May 24 Regional Semifinals TBA TBA
May 25 Regional Semifinals TBA TBA
May 27 Regional Finals TBA TBA
May 31 Sectional Semifinals TBA TBA
June. 1 Sectional Semifinals TBA TBA
June 3 Sectional Finals TBA TBA
June 5 Super-Sectionals TBA TBA
June 9 State Finals TBA TBA
June 10 State Finals TBA TBA