Is there such a thing as too much, too soon?
We’ve seen some interesting results in high school sports so far this spring season, including a number of key head-to-head matchups.
In baseball, I thought Washington had the Four Rivers Classic title sewn up Saturday afternoon. I believe a lot of people felt the same way. The Blue Jays were cruising 6-1 against Festus in the championship game at Borgia.
But somewhere along the line, the Festus Tigers started to make contact against Camron Shipley, who had been sharp all day. And the defense let down as well. I guess the Borgia field was too smooth because errors helped Festus turn that deficit into a lead and then held on in the top of the seventh to claim the title.
The Blue Jays shouldn’t hang their head over the finish. I think Scott Bray’s club can play with anyone in this area, especially with their top two pitchers, Aaron Meyer and Shipley. They throw hard and hit the strike zone. Meyer’s masterpiece against Borgia was the best pitching outing I saw.
The Blue Jays also have blazing speed with Brian Trigg, Seth Bollmann and Matt McGilvray.
If Meyer’s shutout against Borgia in the semifinals was the best game I saw, then Pacific’s Lucas Zurliene threw the next best game. He used a vast array of pitches to keep the Knights off balance throughout most of the game and that allowed Pacific to run away with the third-place plaque.
Pacific’s squad is a typical Jeff Reed team. The players are hard-nosed and know how to play the game. It’s nice to see a lot of familiar faces from the American Legion scene last summer. That experience has made them better players.
While the host school, Borgia, took fourth, the Knights have a lot to look forward to this year as well. Borgia has a lot of new faces, but a lot of young talent as well. Rob Struckhoff has a number of weapons, but needs to find the right spots to use them. Borgia could make some noise before the year’s out, but faces a huge challenge being in Westminster’s district.
Borgia’s turf infield drew nice reviews from teams which came to play this past week. The Knights ended up hosting the finals when Washington couldn’t reserve Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field, due to the fact Crosspoint already had it rented for two games Saturday afternoon. The fears of there not being enough time (Borgia doesn’t have lights) proved to be unfounded. Overall, it was a good tournament.
The good news is that there’s plenty of times for the teams which didn’t do so great in the tournament to turn things around. And for those who are doing well, the event proved to be good affirmation that things are going well so far.
The other sport which has seen a lot of early-season intra-area action is girls soccer.
I think the Class 2 District 9 field might have as many twists as a soap opera this season.
As of right now, Union has the top team in that district. The Lady ’Cats have the area’s best finisher in Bethany Coons and a good supporting cast of experience and youth. Union is the defending district and Four Rivers Conference champion.
As of right now, everything else is a toss-up.
Sullivan seems to have the second-best team in the area right now. The Lady Eagles seem to have a chip on their shoulders right now and are on a mission to prove they’re Union’s equal at the top.
Sullivan has found a finisher in Emma Randolph, who actually entered this week with as many goals as Coons, seven.
Sullivan made another statement Monday night, beating perennial Four Rivers Conference challenger Pacific in league action Monday, 3-1.
Catherine Hayden leads the Lady Indians with five goals.
Pacific does hold an edge over St. Clair, having beaten the Lady Bulldogs in league action last week.
St. Clair shocked many within the area girls soccer community with a shootout win over Borgia last week. The Lady Bulldogs are getting better and better all of the time and might challenge for a higher spot by the time the district tournament is seeded. And, St. Clair will be hosting the district tournament, which will make Ted Koenigsfeld’s team even more dangerous.
And that leaves Borgia. The perennial district challenger would be seeded fifth if the district were played today, and that’s quite a fall from grace for the Lady Knights.
Borgia has yet to win a match this season despite having some strong players on the roster. Once Grant Kang’s team gets SIU-Edwardsville recruit Emily Grahl back onto the field, things should change. Grahl’s quickness and speed make for matchup headaches from any other team. Borgia is a much different squad without her on the pitch.
Washington, in Class 3 District 5, could make some noise this year as well. The Lady Jays have started strong and are in a five-team district at Ft. Zumwalt West with the host school, Holt, Timberland and Troy.
Not much is known about the two Class 1 teams, St. James and Owensville. They’re in District 10 along with Belle, Dixon and Fatima. St. James has had the sport for a while, but Owensville is learning about soccer this spring and taking some lumps along the way. Knowing what the school has athletically, it should be an interesting spring.
Speaking of interesting, we’re starting to put together the ballot for the All-Area basketball teams.
On the girls side, it could be a real mess. We’ve got five coaches who earned coach of the year honors at the conference or district levels (Hermann’s Todd Anderson, Owensville’s Dwayne Clingman, Washington’s Adam Fischer, Sullivan’s Jason Merkel and Borgia’s Stacia Parsell). And that doesn’t count New Haven’s Doug Peirick, who led the Lady Shamrocks to fourth place in the state tournament.
We’ve got four who earned player of the year awards (Borgia’s Janie Arand, Owensville’s Hailey Diestelkamp, Washington’s Kyra Hardesty and Hermann’s Karinne Lane). That should make for some very interesting voting.
On the boys side, discounting a longshot candidate, it likely comes down to Ronnie Suggs of Washington and Cullen VanLeer of Pacific for the player of the year award.
Borgia’s Dave Neier and Pacific’s John VanLeer could come down to the wire for the coach of the year award, just like in their three games this season. Or, could the retiring Ray Steinhoff, a district champion, garner the better percentage of the vote?
I find it very interesting to see that despite having outstanding players in this area, the few Franklin County schools eligible for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro teams were snubbed this year.
Yes, these are very interesting times.