Piatt's OT: Early baseball recruits Thomas, Teschke focused on improving

May 16—Tanner Thomas didn't pack his baseball equipment and head to a University of Louisville camp two years ago for anything special.

Just a high school freshman at the time, and a talented one at that, all Thomas was looking for was to get his name out there, see how he stacked up against other solid players from around the country and soak up whatever he could from some of the best coaches in college baseball.

He certainly didn't expect to walk away with a scholarship offer from the perennial NCAA powerhouse.

"It was crazy because, at that moment, I was still pretty young and immature," Thomas recalled. "I was one of the youngest there. They pulled me aside and talked to me for a while. As soon as that happened, I was like, 'Wow, this is pretty real.'"

Now a junior at Arcola, Thomas is playing like a big-time recruit. Heading into Thursday's Class 1A regional semifinal game against Tuscola, Thomas has a 1.32 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings pitched as well as a .471 batting average with seven home runs, 30 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

Louisville didn't have a crystal ball that told the coaches to offer Thomas a spot on the team four years before he could even get there. For early recruits like Thomas, that decision comes down to what kind of ballplayer college coaches believe they'll turn into. It's all about potential.

"As a freshman, they recruit you based on what they think you're going to be and how you project, so you don't want to let them down at all. You don't want to quit improving," Thomas said. "That's one of the things that motivates me is to keep getting better. Obviously, I want to be able to play when I get there, and that always reminds me that I need to be motivated and keep working hard."

The same applies to Monticello's ace pitcher, senior Luke Teschke, who committed to Illinois State University two years ago as a sophomore before signing with the Redbirds last fall.

"I don't want to be too complacent because that's when baseball will catch up to you," Teschke said. "I want to keep improving, and when I do get to ISU, I want to keep getting better every single day and be productive as soon as I get there."

Teschke said it was "awesome" to be able to commit as early as he did because it allowed him to be stress-free with his recruitment process. It's made this year more enjoyable, from an All-State football campaign in the fall to a record-breaking baseball season in the spring, as he's been able to focus on making his final year of high school memorable.

"I have been a little more free," Teschke said. "Ever since football started, I've felt more free. That might sound kind of crazy, playing quarterback for the first time under coach (Cully) Welter, but I have. Everything's been easier and harder at the same time. I've been ready for the challenge, and I've been having a great time this year."

The last challenge of Teschke's high school career is to make one last run with the Sages. And he played a big part during Wednesday's 3-2 win against Warrensburg-Latham with a walk-off triple to send the Sages into a Class 2A regional championship game against either Tri-Valley or Clinton at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Monticello.

A look ahead

Vote for Athletes of the Week

This week's boys' finalists are Braxton Clem (Salt Fork baseball), Cole Kemper (St. Thomas More baseball), Schafer Ogle (Sullivan baseball) and Mason Orton (Mahomet-Seymour baseball).

Our girls' candidates are Danika Eisenmenger (Unity softball), Libby Henry (Arthur Christian soccer), Andrea Li (Uni High badminton) and Abby Sabalaskey (Westville softball).

Eisenmenger has a solid grasp of the girls' poll, and it looks like the boys' result will go down to the wire between Kemper and Orton. You have until noon Thursday to cast your vote under the "Prep Sports" tab on .


Zoe Goodreau

Centennial softball

Set a single-season Charger pitching record with 161 strikeouts on May 8, still with five games left in the season.

Ella McFarland

Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin girls' track and field

Broke the Blue Devils' triple jump record and won a sectional title with a jump of 36 feet, 6 1/4 inches on May 9.

Dylan Judy

Hoopeston Area baseball

Pitched a five-inning no-hitter with nine strikeouts in the Cornjerkers' 15-0 win against North Vermillion (Ind.) on May 10.

Brevyn Whisman and Brody Phillips

Arcola baseball

Combined to pitch a five-inning no-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the Purple Riders' 14-0 win against Unity Christian on May 10.

Jackson Pratt

Georgetown-Ridge Farm baseball

Hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring Jase Latoz to give the Buffaloes a 4-3 win against Rantoul on May 10.

Haley Cox

LeRoy softball

Pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and was a double away from hitting for the cycle with four RBI in the Panthers' 15-5 win against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley last Saturday.

Danika Eisenmenger

and McKayla Schendel

Unity softball

Eisenmenger pitched 12 shutout innings with seven strikeouts, and Schendel doubled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th to give the Rockets a 1-0 win against Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg last Saturday.

Andrea Li

Uni High girls' badminton

Won her third consecutive IHSA badminton singles title in dominating fashion last Saturday.

Cody Hinton

Fisher baseball

Hit a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring Brayden Mowrey to give the Bunnies a 7-6 win against Cissna Park in Tuesday's regional quarterfinal.

Khloe Builta

LeRoy softball

Pitched a seven-inning no-hitter with five strikeouts in the Panthers' 1-0 win over Okaw Valley in Tuesday's regional semifinal.