Baseball adds 9 to 2016 recruiting class

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

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The Eastern baseball team signed nine players for its 2016 roster, which includes three pitchers and six position players.

The three pitchers who committed to Eastern are Cole Berry, Michael McCormick and Austin Warrem, while the position players who signed on to the Panthers are, Jordan Flint, Zack Forney, Jimmy Govern, Nick Maton, Tyler Tesmond and Dane Toppel.

Eastern’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Jason Anderson was able to have his first full year of recruiting after being hired prior to the 2013 season.

“The hardest part of the recruiting process is getting out on the road and identifying good players that fit well into our program,” Anderson said. “We really did well with this class and we have high expectations for the group.”

Anderson said Eastern was able to nab a couple of players who were receiving calls from bigger programs in the area.

“Nick Maton and Cole Berry are guys that received attention from Big Ten schools, but decided that EIU was where they wanted to play,” he said.

Despite being able to convince a couple of highly recruited players, Anderson said there are always cases where the team thinks that a certain recruit will sign, but ultimately decides to go in a different direction.

“You always have some surprises throughout the process, you make offers to players based on an assumption that is a good fit for both sides,” Anderon said. “Sometimes players don’t always see things the same way and commit to other places.”

Eastern coach Jim Schmitz said Anderson did a great job recruiting the state of Illinois.

“This was Jason’s first full year recruiting and through his relationship building were able to land some top players from top programs in the state,” Schmitz said in a press release. “We are really excited to land such a great class.”

Cole Berry

Out of St. Joseph-Ogden High School, Cole Berry is a 6-foot-4, right-handed pitcher. He was a first team All-Sangamon Valley Conference selection last season and special mention All-Area.

“Cole is probably the sleeper in this group,” Schmitz said.

The right-hander appeared in 13 games as a junior with an 8-1 record and 1.42 ERA. Berry allowed 11 hits in 29.2 innings, while striking out 48 batters. He also hit .500 with 20 runs scored, nine doubles, 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

“He is a big kid that has been up to 91 mph,” Schmitz said. “He pitched for St. Joseph-Ogden who had a top arm last year and he was overlooked until late in the recruiting process. We project him to be a top arm in the future.”

He helped lead his team to the IHSA Class 2A Regional finishing with a 32-3 record.

Jordan Flint

A corner infielder and catcher, Jordan Flint hails from Bartlett High School. He hit .306 with three home runs and 17 RBIs as a junior, helping lead his team to a IHSA Class 4A Regional appearance.

After the 2015 season, the Panthers will lose Brant Valach to graduation. With the loss, Schmitz said he views Flint as the ideal player to fill in the hole at third base after Valach leaves.

“We are counting on Jordan to fill some big shoes,” Schmitz said. “He has soft hands and can really run for a big guy. Jordan is a prototype third baseman, as he stands 6-foot-4 and hits with power.”

Flint also played football and was the starting quarterback in high school.

Zack Forney

At 5-foot-10, catcher Zack Forney plays for coach Don Sutherland at Carey-Grove High School. He played in the summer for the Pro Player Canes and had a breakout performance, hitting .360 with 14 runs scored, four doubles and six stolen bases.

Schmitz said Forney could help stop teams from stealing bases in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Zach is a great catch and throw guy – in the OVC, many of the teams run a lot so he will be an asset in shutting them down on the base paths,” he said. “He is an intelligent, hard nose ballplayer.”

Jimmy Govern

From Liberty High School, Jimmy Govern helped lead his team to the IHSA Class 4A Regional last year hitting .387 with 39 runs scored, eight doubles and 24 RBIs as the team posted a 36-5 record.

He earned first team All-Conference while being named honorable mention All-Area.

“I saw Jimmy play in the Illinois High School State Tournament as a sophomore and knew he was a Division I player,” Schmitz said. “He not only plays a great shortstop but is ready offensively to hit at this level.”

As a sophomore he helped Liberty High School reach the state finals for the second time in school history. Govern hit .377 with 21 RBIs and was an All-Conference honoree.

Nick Maton

A 6-foot-2, shortstop Nick Maton currently plays for coach Pat Moomey at Chatham Glenwood High School. He hit .350 with 34 runs scored and 24 RBIs, earning first team All-Conference honors. Maton added 13 stolen bases and hit six home runs.

Schmitz said some of his current players were vital to recruiting Maton.

“He played summer ball with a few of our players and they helped convince him to come to EIU,” he said. “He is a great defensive infielder who can steal bases and hit with pop. He will give us the power we will lose from the left side.”

Maton also pitched and posted a 4-0 record with 45.2 innings pitched, compiling a 1.53 ERA. He struck out 46 batters, while allowing 35 hits.

Michael McCormick

Right-handed pitcher Michael McCormick began his collegiate career at the US Naval Academy. The 6-foot-2, pitcher will play for Parkland College in 2015, before joining the Panthers for the 2016 season.

“Mike is an important part of our recruiting class,” Schmitz said. “We love the young talented players in this class, but needed a big experience arm to carry the load on the weekends.”

McCormick played his high school baseball at Speedway High School in Indiana, where he was 10-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 107 strikeouts as a senior.  He was named a first team All-State selection and a member of the Indiana North/South All-Star team.

“He has an outstanding slider and can really dominate a game,” Schmitz said. “He means business when he gets on the mound and we are excited to bring his work ethic to this program.”

Tyler Tesmond

From Neuqua Valley High School, Tyler Tesmond, standing at 6 feet, plays in the outfield. As a junior, Tesmond hit .362, driving in 22 runs, while hitting 11 doubles.

He was a first team All-Upstate Eight selection after leading the team in batting average. Tesmond earned All-Area honorable mention.

“Tyler is one of the most complete outfielders we have signed at EIU,” Schmitz said. “He combines power, speed, arm and great defense. We are losing two outfielders for the 2016 season, so we are expecting Tyler to come in and play.”

As a sophomore he became the team’s designated hitter during the playoffs, as Neuqua Valley finished fourth in the ISHA Class 4A state playoffs.

Dane Toppel

Dane Toppel plays middle infield and outfield at South Elgin High School. During his junior year, he hit .411; helping his team place third in the IHSA Class 4A state playoffs.

Schmitz said Toppel has the chance of competing for several positions because of his versatility.

“Dane brings instant speed to our team which is one of our many needs,” he said. “He can play either infield or outfield and we will give him a shot at both positions.”

Toppel was an All-Conference and All-Area selection scoring 36 runs with 38 stolen bases and 19 RBIs.

“Dane’s ability to steal bases and disrupt a game is fun to watch,” Schmitz said.

Austin Warrem

The lone left-handed pitcher Eastern signed was Austin Warrem, who comes from Mattoon High School. The lefty is a two-time All-Apollo Conference selection, posting a 6-1 record with a 1.75 ERA as a junior.

As a sophomore he appeared in ten games finishing with a 5-4 record and 1.68 ERA.

“Austin has a good feel for pitching and is such a competitor on the mound,” Schmitz said. “He pitched in all the big games for Mattoon High and his American Legion team. He really knows how to pitch.”

In two seasons, Warrem has 128 strikeouts in 122 innings of work.

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]