Eagles ready to fly under new direction

Casey Dillman prepares for a ground ball at an indoor practice earlier this month 

RANTOUL — The season may not start for a while, but that doesn’t mean the Rantoul Township High School baseball team won’t be ready.

The Eagles went 16-14 last season but are entering a new era.

Longtime coach Jon Donovan has moved on, and first-year head coach Eric Gerdes is taking over.

Donovan is not the only one gone from last year’s team. Hayden Cargo, Adam Crites, Nolan  Roseman and Chad Vermilion all graduated from the 2019 squad. 

Despite the turnover in leadership the Eagles still have a nice group of upperclassmen. 

Gerdes said he is excited for the group he has for his first year.

“We have three seniors returning and then seven juniors,” Gerdes said. “I also have three sophomores that have a little bit of experience from last year’s team. We are going to be a young baseball team, and maybe they show that at times but so far they have been very receptive to what I have been teaching them.”

Gerdes does have certain guys he knows he can rely on.

“Casey Dillman is back, and he will be one of my floaters,” Gerdes said. “He can play several different positions. He can catch, he can play infield positions, and he will throw a little bit for us as well.” 

Drew Duden is another player Gerdes is excited to have.

“He is from the Gifford area and has played a lot of ball. He will help us out a lot,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes also has a catcher he is very comfortable with.

“Jake Lykins caught a lot last year and will be back there again this season,” Gerdes said.

Eli Remington and Nolan Riddle are two of the seniors who will be tasked with leading the team.

“Eli is one of our captains, and Riddle will be helpful as well,” Gerdes said. “I got three good seniors who will show a lot of leadership which they have been doing so far for us.”

Gerdes said this season there will be a lot of adapting to do.

“We are in a very tough conference. There will still be a learning curve for me and the kids, but they have been really good so far this week,” Gerdes said.

The Eagles’ season will start no earlier than April 6. Rantoul does have a scheduled game for April 6 at Centennial. 

You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@RantoulPress or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP