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Red-hot Trailblazers Eye a Top-Two Region Seed

Article by: Pete Hayes, the Telegraph, phayes@thetelegraph.com

GODFREY — With his L&C baseball team closing in on its best record in 16 seasons, Trailblazers coach Randy Martz said there’s plenty riding on the season-ending series with Heartland Community College.

L&C sits at 26-13 overall and 20-8 in the Mid-West Athletic Conference after taking three of four from Spoon River over the weekend, including a doubleheader sweep Sunday in Godfrey. The Trailblazers have won 13 of their last 15 games and are in second place in the MWAC behind Parkland and are eyeing a top-two seed in the postseason region tourney.

But first, come back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday against Heartland to complete the regular season. They’ll play two Friday in Godfrey and two Saturday in Bloomington.

“If we can take three of four, we’ll be guaranteed at least the No. 2 seed,” Martz said. “That’s important, because the top two seeds would come out of opposite brackets.”

Sunday, the Blazers swept Spoon River, winning the opener 11-1 in six innings and the second game 3-2.

Conner Pinsker and Zach Seavers pitched complete games for L&C. Chris Iazzetta had four RBIs and Blake Vandiver had three.

The Trailblazers are hoping to better the 30-20 record of 2003. More important to Martz, though, would be a Region 24 championship and a berth in the NJCAA Division II World Series.

“We won back-to-back regionals in ‘96 and ‘97,” Martz said, “but haven’t won one since.”

That 1996 L&C team went 34-25, advanced to the NJCAA World Series and finished third in the nation.

The region coaches will gather at Lincoln Land Tuesday, May 14 to seed the teams for the double-elimination Region 24 Division II Tournament set for May 16-20 in Bloomington at the Corn Crib stadium.

Heading into the season, Martz knew the talent was on the roster for a strong run, but things had to fall into place. The on-again, off-again spring weather wreaks havoc with schedules and as a result, can blow up an otherwise promising season.

But not so much this spring.

“Our top four (pitchers) are getting it done,” Martz said, “plus, we really go six deep with our bullpen.

“And we’re getting good defense and some hitting.”

A time-honored formula.

The Trailblazer’ regulars are led by a solid core of players, according to Martz.

Vandiver, a sophomore outfielder from Roxana, leads the way with a .376 average, 31 RBIs, a home run, nine doubles and two triples in 93 at-bats.

Tate Wargo, a sophomore shortstop from Gillespie, is batting .259 with six doubles and five triples in 112 at-bats; Ernest Plummer, a freshman outfielder from Danville, is batting .317 with 21 RBIs.

Nick Wilke, a freshman from Wentzville, is batting .317 with six doubles, a triple and a home run; Ashton Smith, a freshman catcher from Du Quoin, has a .345 average with 16 RBIs, five doubles and a home run and Dusty Sutton, a sophomore second baseman from Steelville is hitting .349 with four doubles and nine RBIs.

The bench has come through as well. Seth Nast, a freshman third baseman from Wesclin, is hitting .481 with 15 RBIs, a double and two triples in 63 at-bats; Dylan Walker, a sophomore outfielder From Troy, Missouri, from is batting .431 with a double and eight RBIs and Iazetta, a sophomore outfielder from Clinton, New Jersey, is hitting .434 with five doubles, a triple, a home run and 16 RBIs

On the mound, Quinton Kujawa, a sophomore from Mount Vernon, is 6-0 with five complete games, 50 strikeouts and 16 walks.

Brandon Hampton, a sophomore from Civic Memorial, is 3-2 with two complete games, 19 strikeouts and 16 walks; Pinsker, a freshman from Highland, is 6-2 with two complete games, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks and Seavers, a sophomore from Edwardsville, is 5-2 with three complete games, 15 strikeouts and 13 walks.

“And our bullpen has done a good job,” Martz said. “(Devin) McCullough and (Dylan) Hansen have been slamming the door.”

McCullough a freshman from Springfield (Missouri) Hillcrest, has three saves and Hansen, a sophomore from Fort Zumwalt West, has one save and a 3-2 record.

As his team hits the stretch, Martz is sticking to the one-game-at-a-time approach.

“We have to focus on what is next,” he said, “and what we can control.”

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