Vols’ Thompson signs with Illinois State

By JOHN D. HOMAN, Logan Media Services

John A. Logan College sophomore pitcher/outfielder Derek Thompson has signed a letter of intent to play baseball on scholarship next fall for Illinois State University.

JALC sophomore Derek Thompson signs a letter of intent to play baseball on scholarship at Illinois State University next fall. A native of Teutopolis, Thompson was recruited as a lefthanded pitcher. He also plays outfield for the Volunteers. (Photo courtesy Jonathan LeBlond)

A native of Teutopolis, the former prep All-Stater turned in an amazing freshman season for the Volunteers last spring, going 8-2 with a 1.92 earned-run-average and four shutouts. The lefthander struck out 103 and walked only 29.

Thompson was also a force to be reckoned with limited playing time on offense, batting .299 with two home runs and six runs batted in. He had 20 hits in 67 at bats and scored 11 runs. And defensively, he was nothing short of outstanding with several diving catches in the postseason.

Thompson was instrumental in Logan winning the Great Rivers Athletic Conference with a mark of 23-5 and posting a 41-22 overall record, which included a second straight Region 24 championship and advancement to the Northern District championship game against Iowa Western, also for the second straight year.

“Derek is a definite impact player,” said Vols head coach Jerry Halstead. “I expect him to be our No. 1 starter next spring and will start in the outfield when not pitching.”

Halstead said Thompson possesses an above-average fastball and sharp curve. He is still working on developing a better change up.

“Simply put, he’s a special player. It’s quite a coup for Illinois State to keep him here in the state considering Derek was being recruited by some schools in the Southeastern Conference. When he fills out and matures at 6-foot-4 and 220 to 230 pounds, he’s going to be something out. Probably the only reason we got him was because he was about 180 when he got here and needed time to mature.”

Thompson said coming to Logan was the right choice for him.

“Last spring was great and I’m very much looking forward to next spring,” he said. “I think we have a lot of depth on this team and am excited about our chances within the conference and then again at the regional at the end of the season.”

Thompson said that while he enjoys playing multiple positions, he realizes that pitching is probably his strong suit.

“I just need to keep focused and make sure my mechanics are OK. As long as I can do that, as well as add a few miles-per-hour to my fastball and locate my pitches, I should be fine.”

Thompson said he also looks forward to competing at Illinois State next fall.

“Believe me, I’m excited about it. Just one step at a time, though. We have some unfinished business here at Logan first.”

Three Vols sign with Louisiana at Monroe

BY JOHN D. HOMAN, Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Three John A. Logan College sophomores – third baseman Keelin Rasch of Harrisburg, lefthanded pitcher Wes Mason of Mount Vernon and righthanded pitcher Chris Hunt of Paducah – recently signed letters of intent to play baseball on scholarship next fall at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

John A. Logan College sophomores Wes Mason, Chris Hunt and Keelin Rasch signed letters of intent last week to play baseball next fall at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Mason and Hunt are pitchers. Rasch is a third baseman. (Logan Media Services photo)

“To have this many kids sign on the first day of the early signing period is pretty special,” said Vols head coach Jerry Halstead. “We’re very happy for these young men and believe the Division I signings say a lot about our program here. When you look at the school they’re going to attend, they’re going to a quality program.”

The University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks finished 32-30 a year ago and won the Sun Belt Conference championship. Two former Vols – outfielder Brandon Alexander and righthanded pitcher Cale Wine – are seniors there this year.

Halstead said it’s always good to see the hard work and dedication of student-athletes rewarded with a scholarship to a four-year school.

“Not only are these kids good athletes, but they are also good students and that benefits the university,” he said. “I expect Keelin to step in and play right away next year, while Wes and Chris should also make an impact with their pitching staff. I look forward to them having outstanding careers at ULM.”

First things first, however, as Halstead is counting on the trio to provide leadership roles with a solid Vols team next spring.

“They’re part of our club’s core,” he said. “They bring a lot to the table and will be expected to contribute heavily toward our goal of winning another Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region 24 championship.”

Mason said he was happy to sign with ULM.

“I’m absolutely excited about it,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of playing Division I baseball. Louisiana Monroe is a good environment. They won the conference last year and the community is really behind them. I liked the feel of things when I visited there. It seems to be a program on the rise and I want to be a part of what I believe to be something special.”

Mason said he realizes there is unfinished business at Logan next spring.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I would like to see us win another conference and region title and then go on to win the district title, so we can qualify for the World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.”

Mason said he expects to be more successful in his sophomore season.

“I think the experience I got last year helped me a lot this fall,” he said. “I was much more comfortable on the mound and want to be a guy my teammates can look to for leadership.”

Rasch patrols the hot corner for the Vols. He said the decision to pick ULM was an easy one.

“After visiting there, it seemed like the perfect fit for all of us,” he said. “It’s a great program, a great baseball town and you can’t beat the weather,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing ball there for the next two years. And to have two of my Logan teammates going there with me is that much more exciting.”

Rasch said his maturation as a player should lead to even greater success as a sophomore next spring.

“Playing last year made a big difference. I’m much more comfortable in my game this year and am looking forward to having a good year.”

Nothing short of a trip to the World Series will satisfy the sophomores, Rasch said.

“We had a taste of it last year, winning Region 24 and advancing to the District championship game. We want to go one step further this year.”

Hunt said he is equally excited about signing with ULM.

“I’m definitely looking forward to moving on to the next stage in my career with Louisiana Monroe,” he said. “I liked what I saw there when I visited and hope I will be able to make a difference with them next year.”

Hunt said coming to Logan out of high school was one of the best decisions he has made in his young life.

“I needed some time to mature as a player and as an individual and Logan has provided that for me,” he said. “My pitching mechanics have improved and so has my overall work ethic thanks to Coach Halstead and the other coaches. I would say I am a much more determined player in my approach to the game now than I was before coming here.”

Hunt said that while it’s comforting to know he has a scholarship waiting on him for next year, he is focused now winning games for the Vols.

“Absolutely,” he said. “The World Series is never far from my mind. It would be awesome to go out a winner at Colorado. We have a really good team, which I think is capable of making it there. I’m excited to get the season started.”

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