Baseball

Wabash Valley College baseball coach Rob Fournier has been busy with his bullpen this week in practice, putting them through simulated situations.

Because they haven’t been needed in actual games lately.

“We didn’t get to use them last week,” said Fournier, referencing the quick work his team made of Shawnee last week in the first round of the Region 24 tournament, winning 10-0 twice to sweep a best-of-three series and advance to the Final Four Saturday at Rent One Park (home of the Southern Illinois Miners) in Marion.

“We feel really good about our bullpen but we haven’t been able to get to them sometimes. They get a little rusty, so that’s a little bit of a concern.”

The Shawnee games came after a one-week layoff as it was, so the bullpen will have been idle for a full 14 days when the 15th-ranked Warriors face John A. Logan at 3 p.m. in the double-elimination tourney. WVC (42-11) is the No. 1 seed heading in.
Second-seed Kaskaskia (29-15) faces Southwestern (36-17) in the noon tourney opener.

The bullpen’s lack of use should change quickly, however.

“There aren’t going to be any more of ‘those’ games. I’d love for them to be that way, but the bottom line is we will use everybody,” Fournier said.

WVC, on a 15-game winning streak, swept Logan in a 3-game Great Rivers Athletic Conference series April 10-12. After a 14-3 win in Carterville, the Warriors finished off the Volunteers with 9-3 and 11-8 wins in Mt. Carmel.

Logan (25-20) “is a scary bunch,” according to Fournier. “They have very good pitching.”

In the first meeting between the two, WVC roughed up Logan’s No. 1 hurler, Joey Marciano, who lasted only three innings.

Marciano (8-2) hasn’t lost a game since and has lowered his ERA to 1.84. He went 7.2 innings for a no-decision in Logan’s 7-4, 10-inning win over Lake Land Saturday, after one-hitting Rend Lake over seven innings in his final regular-season appearance.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman lefthander from Chicago “has been dominant all year,” Fournier said. “He’s going to want revenge.”

Philip Diehl will start the first game for Wabash Valley, with Zach Lewis available for a second game.

One of the bullpen arms will be unavailable, with Matt Schultz out for the year. “We’ve had guys step up in the bullpen all year,” Fournier said.

The Region 24 winner advances to the NJCAA inter-regional playoffs along with winners from Region 4 (northern Illinois) and Region 11 (Iowa), which will host the tourney May 9-18.

NOTES: The Warriors will mark their first return to Rent One’s artificial turf in four years, the last time with Keith Butler as a pitcher. “It’s an awesome atmosphere,” Fournier said.

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