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By Mark Jurgena
Collinsville High baseball coach Brett Swip enters his third season with plenty of optimism as his Kahoks look toward their 2023 campaign.
They finished last season at 15-20 but finished the season strong winning five of their final six contests including a 4-3 win over Class 4A O’Fallon Regional champion Belleville East on the road.
The day before that game they lost 3-2 to East in Collinsville and would complete their season falling 4-3 to the Lancers in the regional semifinals.
“We gained some confidence at the end of the year,” began Swip. “We were able to hang with some of the top teams in the conference. We needed to get to that point. We needed to let the conference know that we weren’t okay with being at the bottom of the conference like we had been the past few years. We needed our guys to believe.”
Collinsville returns two juniors on the mound that saw plenty of innings one season ago.
Ethan Bagwell threw in 12 games last spring with seven starts. He threw 39 innings and had a 3.47 ERA. The hard-throwing right-hander had 70 strikeouts last year and is currently ranked the No. 4 pitcher in Illinois for the Class of 2024. He has given a verbal commitment to the University of Missouri to play baseball.
Southpaw Bryce Lemp threw 13 games one year ago with four starts and a 2.91 ERA. His WHIP was 1.54 while striking out 37 hitters.
Swip expects them to be two-way players this season.
He also mentioned experienced pitchers CJ Schaaf and Ryan Kremer among several other names who will toe the rubber this spring.
“The mound is going to be one of our strengths,” said Swip. “We’re going to be pretty deep with a lot of club experience and a lot of high school experience. Our arms ought to keep us in a lot of games.”
Cy Turner and Luke Weller will catch for the Kahoks this season.
Swip sees the outfield as a strength this season on defense.
CHS returns the vast majority of their outfield with Lemp, Kris Alcorn, Matt Shelton, and Kolby Anderson.
“Sometimes high school coaches, we take it for granted,” said Swip. “We’ve got guys that respect the outfield, love the outfield and consider themselves outfielders. When you’re a high school coach that’s something you appreciate.”
Finally, Swip and his staff have really focused on the mental side of play with this club.
“We came out strong at the beginning last year,” Swip began. “When it got hard we weren’t quite ready for that. We weren’t ready for the pressure cooker. We’re trying to take that as a lesson learned. We talk about that, we own up to it that the adversity got to us.
Their season begins today at the PBR Classic in O’Fallon against Oswego at 6:15 p.m. They resume play tomorrow in Belleville against Algonquin (Jacobs) at 4:00 p.m. Saturday they play at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget at 9:45 a.m. followed by a game on the JV turf field at Edwardsville against Salem.