At its weekly meeting, the Carmi Kiwanis Club heard from Carmi White County High School Baseball Coach Justin Simmons. Kiwanian Toby Brown introduced Simmons, noting his accomplishments when playing sports for CWCHS as a high school student.
Simmons, who graduated in 1997 and was the starting point guard on coach Brad Lee’s memorable “Sweet 16” basketball team that year, told the club that there have been several games rained out this year. Further complicating the Bulldogs’ efforts to get on the field this season is the fact that their tarp has been rendered virtually useless due to a couple of holes that allow water to leak through to the field. The team stands 1-3 on the season, but expects to finish strong.
The Bulldogs will play their first Black Diamond Conference East game on April 3 against Edwards County at home. Simmons expects his own team, which went 15-11 and advanced to the Class 2A sectional last season, to be a contender for the league crown, along with Fairfield and Edwards County. He noted that Johnston City and Hamilton County, though, are also off to great starts, so it could be a wide-open race this spring.
This year’s team consists of seven seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and 11 freshmen. Three seniors have already committed to play baseball at the collegiate level. Easton Stewart (son of Kiwanian Greg Stewart) will play at the University of Evansville, Justin Lamp at Rend Lake College and Drew Huffer at Southeastern Illinois College. Simmons expects at least one or two more of his players will sign to play in college before the season is over.
The second-year coach said he is often asked about the Illinois High School Association’s new rule concerning pitch counts. That rule, which sets guidelines limiting the number of pitches an athlete can throw during certain time periods, went into effect last year. Simmons shared a story of how it came into play in a crucial situation at the 2017 regional.
In the Bulldogs’ semifinal game against Waltonville, the Bulldog ace, Stewart, was on the mound late in a close game, had a 3-2 count on the batter with one out and two men on base, and was only one pitch away from reaching the limit of pitches that would prevent him from pitching again in the regional final. Simmons faced the dilemma of whether or not to leave Stewart in and possibly not be able to use him in the regional final, or take him out and possibly risk losing the game (which would make the first scenario a moot point).
Simmons allowed Stewart to throw that final pitch and he came through by inducing an inning-ending double play. The Bulldogs went on to win the game, then won the regional final over host Fairfield three days later.
CWCHS Softball Coach Chris Shelton was originally scheduled to speak to the Kiwanians, but was unable to attend. –Report by Toby Brown.