Maple Leafs' baseball team will rely on pitching and defense

Chris Steele
Keaton Rice returns to the Maple Leafs' lineup as the defending Northern Illinois Big 12 MVP.

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