It’s hard to believe, but in a matter of days, 2017 will be history.
It seems like just yesterday that we welcomed in the new year. Now, we’re bringing in 2018.
It was a wild and successful year for a lot of area sports teams and individuals. You can read about the best of 2017 in this section. There was a lot to write about that didn’t make the article.
It was the year of the professional athlete. Below are updates on a few.
New Haven’s Kathleen Scheer was named the South East Australia Basketball League’s defensive player of the year. She will be returning to Australia’s Hobart Chargers, but has taken on a new challenge playing for Cosinus Widzew Lodz in Poland, where she averages 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Scheer also has played for two teams in the Australian WNBL.
Washington graduate Scott Suggs is playing for New Basket Brindisi in Italy, averaging 11.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He’s played in Spain, France and multiple NBA developmental leagues during his career.
Borgia graduate Matt Pickens reached 100 appearances for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, which moved to USL for 2017. He also made a big switch, moving from the Rowdies to the new Nashville SC team, also in USL. He was that team’s first-ever signing.
With Nashville being awarded a franchise in Major League Soccer last week, it’s possible Pickens could make the move back to America’s top league when that team begins play.
Pickens is no stranger to MLS. He led the Colorado Rapids to the 2018 MLS Cup title and also has experience with the Chicago Fire.
Pickens has seen the world in his soccer travels, but thanks to him playing in USL, that means he gets to come play in St. Louis from time to time. And, Nashville isn’t that far away, either, so he might be the easiest area pro to see in action.
Justin Lawrence, “The American Kid,” continued his professional mixed martial arts fighting career with a first-round win at Bellator 181 in July over Treston Thomison.
Lawrence has had a long career in related sports. He was a state medalist at Pacific High School and also has a boxing background. Lawrence came into the limelight with “The Ultimate Fighter” TV show and earned a shot to compete in UFC. He went 1-2 in bouts there and was the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featherweight champion during his time with that group.
Union High School graduate Ashton Goudeau spent the 2017 season with Northwest Arkansas (AA) of the Kansas City Royals system. He went 3-7, starting seven games on the hill and throwing in 21.
Goudeau was called up to the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA) at the end of the season and could get his chance to show what he can do.
Brendan Feldmann also got the end-of-season call-up in the Houston Astros organization. Signed by the Houston Astros out of Lindenwood, Feldmann excelled for the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate with a 2-1 record, two saves and a 0.54 ERA. He will start 2018 on the fast track with the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA).
Both Goudeau and Feldmann played for Washington Post 218’s American Legion baseball program. Legion baseball came into the spotlight in 2017 as well.
This area fielded 17 teams in the Ninth District this summer, 15 in Franklin County alone. Washington, Union and New Haven each had three teams. St. Clair, Pacific and Sullivan fielded two. Rosebud and Rhineland each had one team.
Overall, the Ninth District had exceptional participation once again. In fact, the Ninth District has more teams than some states.
The big success stories had to be the Washington Post 218 Freshmen winning the state title for the second year in a row, New Haven Post 366’s run to the Ninth District Tournament title from the eighth seed and St. Charles Post 312’s Junior Legion team going to the state tournament.
The big change for Legion baseball, and high school ball as well, was the institution of pitch counts.
For the most part, our area’s teams seemed to be able to adapt to the new rules. Legion teams had a chance to see what happened during the high school season, and consequently, many either took more pitchers or got players who had a little pitching experience during the spring.
In other words, the days of “Spahn, Sain and pray for rain” are done. There won’t be any more two- or even three-pitcher rotations for high school or Legion ball. A few years back, Warrenton Post 122 dominated because it spaced out games and could throw Ben Stephens just about every time. When it got into the Zone Tournament, the season came to a halt because there really wasn’t a second or third dominant pitching option. It’s extremely unlikely we’ll see anything like that again.
Considering there was no grace period, or adjustment time, the switch went well. There weren’t too many times where it became amateur hour on the mound because teams ran out of players who could find the strike zone.
For teams with smaller rosters, that meant not playing games which weren’t necessary and some squads only played league games. There were a few times where pitchers had to leave an out short of a complete-game shutout, but those were rare.
So what will 2018 bring?
It’s very possible some of the same athletes who found success last season will do so again in the new year.
One thing we do know for certain is that former Borgia volleyball Assistant Coach Andy Halaz will be running the Missouri S&T program after he was hired last week. Andy will do a great job there. It’s a good opportunity for him to show what he can do.
Hopefully, he comes back to our area to find players. We’ve got some who could play at that level. He’s got an outstanding academic institution to offer to prospective players. It’s one of the finest engineering schools in the nation.