March 30, 2017

CARTERVILLE — Dyersburg State Community College — ranked number one in the nation by the National Junior College Athletic Association — stepped off the bus this week in Carterville with some very big bats.

The John A. Logan College baseball team — ranked 18th in the nation — took the field with some very high hopes.

In his first year as head coach of the Volunteers, Kyle Surprenant had noticed something in his team recently: They were playing good all-around baseball.

“We’ve just been playing overall very well,” Surprenant said. “We’ve been good at the plate, good in the field, strong on the mound. We believed that we had a chance to beat the number one team in the country.”

Dyersburg (29-1) and JALC (18-7) were tied 3-3 after nine innings. That tie continued through 11 innings.

Earlier in the fourth inning, with the bases loaded and only one out, Dyersburg tried to dampen the Vols’ hopes with a screaming line drive that shortstop Cody Grosse, a sophomore from Joliet, made a remarkable play on. This would give the Vols an added confidence boost as the game remained close.

In the bottom of the 11th the Vols loaded the bases. With a swing of the bat that resulted in a walk-off single, the Vols had defeated the nation’s top team.

New team rankings come out next Tuesday. But Surprenant said his team isn’t looking that far ahead. The Vols have a three-game series against Lincoln Trail this Saturday and Sunday in Carterville.

“We know what we accomplished by defeating the number one team in the country, but we have to stay humble and continue to play good baseball,” Surprenant explained.

The Vols are currently batting .309 as a team and averaging 8.3 runs per game. The Vols have 186 RBIs and have been able to steal 36 bases out of 38 tries.

Marshall Gilbert, the Vols’ 6’1” 220-pound catcher from Wisconsin and Landen Harris, a 6’0” 180-pound infielder from Murphysboro, are leading the team in batting average at .360 and .361 respectively. Gilbert has also gone five-for-five in stolen bases.

Gilbert and Logan Kaletha, a 6’0” 190-pound infielder leads the team with home runs at four each.

Cody Grosse, a 5’7” 150-pound infielder from Joliet, leads the team in doubles with 10. He also boasts a .354 batting average.

Overall, the Vols have 54 doubles and 21 home runs.

“We’ve got a good mix of speed and power and we can get the job done on the mound,” Surprenant said.

In 192 innings pitched, the Vols’ pitchers have struck out 211 batters.

Surprenant has had a love for baseball ever since his father, Randy, a blue-collar boiler room operator from Iroquois County took him into the front yard at a young age to play catch. His father had no team experience playing baseball but instilled in him a love for the game.

Surprenant played baseball at Clifton High School before going to Kankakee Community College. He’s always played shortstop.

He also played at Western Illinois University as well as a season with the Washington Wildthings of the Frontier League.

Before coming to JALC, he coached two seasons at Kankakee Community College. He then attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he earned his Master’s of Education in Kinesiology. In 2010, he started as a volunteer coach for the Vols under then head coach Jerry Halstead.

Surprenant also spent two summers coaching in the Coastal Plan League with the Gastonia Grizzlies in Gastonia, NC.

Surprenant said that if the Vols “stay healthy” and “with a little luck,” they should remain strong throughout the season. Having been ranked 18th and now defeating the number one team in the nation, if the Vols can close out the three-game series against Lincoln Trail, they should no doubt go up in the national polls. Something Surprenant tells his team is not of great importance.

However, if the games go their way this weekend, on Tuesday there will certainly be some players who won’t resist going to the world wide web and taking a peek.