Baseball: Conant's Loeger makes smooth transition from pool to diamond
Conant's Bryce Loeger barely had enough time to dry off.
Loeger, who just wrapped up swimming at the junior nationals in Orlando, came back to baseball at Conant two weeks ago. After his mandatory seven practices, he was on the bump Thursday.
Loeger took to the diamond, just like he did to the pool. He threw 4-2/3 innings, striking out seven, while allowing just three hits and a walk in Conant's 5-2 win over Maine South in Hoffman Estates.
"I felt great," Loeger said. "Going in, I knew I was capped at 75, so I had nothing to lose. So I went out there and attacked the hitters and go right at them. The arm feels great."
Loeger, who is a junior, was eighth in the state in the 50 freestyle and 12th in the 100 backstroke at the IHSA swimming championships on Feb. 25. He then spent three weeks prior to the start of high school baseball in Illinois to compete for the Junior Swimming Nationals.
Conant coach Derek Fivelson, who had Loeger on a strict pitch count of 75 pitches, said he was happy to have Loeger back.
"This is the deepest pitching staff I have had here in 10 years," Fivelson said. "Having Bryce back is great. I kept him at 75 because it is his first time out and that is my rule. It was a great 75."
Loeger showed Fivelson, and everyone else, what he had in the first inning.
After allowing a long triple to Maine South leadoff hitter Kerim Orucevic, Loeger came back to fan the next three batters to end the threat.
"I am a competitor out there," Loeger said. "Their leadoff hitter is a great hitter. After that, I knew I had to buckle down and focus and get the next three."
Conant (6-1) also stranded runners, leaving five on base in the first two innings.
They broke through for three runs in the third as the Cougars' Isaiah Rhodes and Cooper Hansen each scored by avoiding tags at home plate. Loeger also scored on a sacrifice fly by Angelo Coletta.
The Cougars plated another run in the fourth. Jake Parpet and Logan Cole had back-back-doubles to make it 4-0.
Parpet had a good day at the plate. He had two hits, and as a catcher, threw out runner at the plate on a wild pitch and tagged another runner at home.
"Things are going well for us," Parpet said. "The bats are hot and we have this guy (Loeger) back and that is a big addition to our lineup."
Maine South (2-5-1) was able to string a trio of walks in the sixth to climb back in the game. Brady Marques scored on wild pitch and Noah Collins on a two-out single. But the threat ended when Parpet tagged out a runner attempting to score on Collins' hit.
Conant added an insurance run on Hansen's third hit of the game, scoring Parpet, who had singled earlier.
"We are hitting the ball and scoring a lot of runs early in the season," Fivelson said. "We have had some timely hits. I am very happy with what our offense has been able to do."
Maine South coach Brian Lorenz, whose team was 25-10 last year, said that his team will fight to get away from their slow start this season.
"We haven't been scoring all year," Lorenz said. "We are struggling to hit. We get a leadoff triple and then it is strike out, strike out, strike out. That can't happen. Just hit the ball on the ground. The guys are just trying to do too much."