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Chester baseball preview: 'We'll swing for the fences'

  • The 2019 Chester High School varsity baseball team, back row, from left: Ethan Bert, Michael Wingerter, Jaden Mott, Nick Meyer, Chett Andrews, Devon Straight, Ethen Eggemeyer and Hayden Gendron. Front row, from left: Alex Gruenewald, Daigen Hunter, Nathen Heffernan, Camdyn Schemonic, Jacob Miller, Owen Korando and Ryan Whitley. Not pictured: Hunter Munie, Dylan Kelkhoff and Marcus Murphy.

    The 2019 Chester High School varsity baseball team, back row, from left: Ethan Bert, Michael Wingerter, Jaden Mott, Nick Meyer, Chett Andrews, Devon Straight, Ethen Eggemeyer and Hayden Gendron. Front row, from left: Alex Gruenewald, Daigen Hunter, Nathen Heffernan, Camdyn Schemonic, Jacob Miller, Owen Korando and Ryan Whitley. Not pictured: Hunter Munie, Dylan Kelkhoff and Marcus Murphy.
    Jim Beers photo

 
BY JIM BEERS
Contributing Writer
updated: 3/24/2019 4:39 PM

The Chester High School baseball team is preparing for an explosive season under new coach Trevor Kelkhoff, who is hoping to instill stability into the program, as well as wins.

Kelkhoff took over Yellow Jacket baseball after last year's head coach, Jim Kowzan, left CHS.

"Last year was a rough year for Jacket baseball," he said. "We lost longtime CHS baseball Head Coach Jeremy Blechle to his other, more important duties as assistant principal. Assistant Coach Billy Belton left to take over head coaching of Yellow Jacket football."

He said Kowzan agreed to coach baseball, after a lot of success as a softball coach.

"We had a lot of new and differing philosophies working and the season just didn't go well," Kelkhoff added, referring to the team's 5-13 record.

So far this spring, the Yellow Jackets have mostly practiced indoors, managing only a few outdoor workouts in between pelting ice, snow and rain.

"It has been frustrating," Kelkhoff admitted, "but at least all the teams in the area have had the same disadvantage. We need to get outside, though, because there is only so much you can do in the gym."

Kelkhoff said that the 2019 Yellow Jackets start the season with pitching depth and versatility at all positions, not to mention power.

"Our philosophy is that we will swing for the fence and have a very explosive offense," he said.

The Jackets lost several key players to graduation last May, including Curt Meyer who was the Jacket's top hitter (.300), Clay Herrell, catcher Bradley Kelkhoff, Mason Westerman, and Calvin Clendenin.

The 2019 Yellow Jackets' roster has 18 athletes: four seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores, and two freshmen. Six starters are returning, including senior center fielder/pitcher Nick Meyer; senior pitcher Owen Korando, who also plays shortstop and left field; junior pitcher and third baseman Ethen Eggemeyer; junior Ethan Bert, a junior, who will play shortstop and roam left field; junior Michael Wingerter who will pitch, catch, and play outfield; and Jaden Mott, a sophomore, who will pitch and play 1st and 2nd base.

Seniors Hunter Munie and Devin Straight will also be key contributors. Munie can play 2nd and 3rd base while Straight can play left field, pitch and play 1st base.

Juniors Chett Andrews and Jacob Miller will come off the bench, adding to the Yellow Jacket's versatility. Andrews will catch, and play 1st and 2nd base, while Miller can fill in at 2nd or 3rd base.

The varsity also has six other sophomores and two freshmen. Sophomores are Nate Heffernan, Hayden Gendron, Ryan Whitley, Camdyn Shemonic, Daigen Hunter and Alex Gruenewald.

Heffernan is a good defender and can play 2nd base, pitch and catch; Gendron can pitch if needed and play 1st base or outfield; Whitley, a rookie to varsity, is a good hitter and plays 2nd, short and 3rd; Shemonic plays outfield and can catch; Hunter specializes at 2nd base and shortstop; and Gruenewald plays outfield, 2nd base and pitches.

At the freshman level Marcus Murphy and Dylan Kelkhoff will contribute as needed. Murphy is a big, strong hitter, according to Coach Kelkhoff and he can catch, play 1st base or 3rd base. Kelkhoff is a catcher and he can play shortstop.

Coach Kelkhoff said the Black Diamond Conference, particularly the West Division, will be strong.

"Goreville, Trico, Christopher-Ziegler-Royalton and Vienna are all very competitive," he said. "In my opinion the conference is really up for grabs. With six returning starters, though, I think we have a good chance to win it!"

Kelkhoff has been playing and coaching baseball pretty much his whole life, playing for both Chester Grade School and Chester High School. He assisted Jeff Kordys coaching both the Junior Jackets and the Yellow Jackets in the 1990s.

All together I think I have coached baseball at CGS and CHS for almost 20 years," he said.

Because of that, Kelkhoff has coached most of his team at one level or another as they grew up. Now, as a head coach of his own team, Kelkhoff has realized a dream. "It has always been my goal to coach high school baseball," he said. "I am ready for the challenge."

Kelkhoff's assistant coaches are Chris Wingerter, assistant coach; Brett Klindworth, pitching coach; Ty Malley, hitting coach; and Boyd Miles, junior varsity coach.

The Jackets will play 13 home and 11 away games.

"I want my players to have fun, but I also want them to play aggressively and leave it all out there on the field," Kelkhoff said. "We will be aggressive at the plate and aim for the fence. I have coached and taught most of these boys since they were in T-ball and I look forward to seeing what they can do now as CHS varsity baseball players."

RosterNO NAME YR

2 Ryan Whitley, SO

4 Owen Korando, SR

6 Alex Gruenewald, SO

9 Ethen Eggemeyer, JR

10 Nate Hefferman, SO

12 Camdyn Shermonic, SO

13 Chett Andrews, JR

14 Hayden Gendron, SO

17 Dylan Kelkhoff, FR

18 Marcus Murphy, FR

19 Hunter Munie, SR

20 Devin Straight, SR

22 Jacob Miller, JR

24 Daigen Hunter, SO

25 Nick Meyer, SR

27 Michael Wingerter, JR

36 Ethan Bert, JR

66 Jaden Mott, SO