After 3 consecutive district titles, coach aims for sectional win
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Was there something in the Brentwood water supply back in 1996-97 that caused a bunch of athletic boys to be born?
Some of the males who were delivered then are now seniors at Brentwood High School, and as a group they’re sports crazy. During this school year the guys in the class of 2014 have dominated several sports. They’ve provided 12 players in football, five in soccer, seven in basketball and nine in baseball.
Can all those grizzled veterans come up with a memorable baseball season? It might take more than a fourth consecutive district championship to make everybody happy. It might take at least one win beyond that: a sectional title.
“We’ve won our district three years in a row now,” said fourth-year head coach Mike Imergoot. “Our goal is to win a sectional this year.”
He knows that’s a tall order, as the Eagles have been routed in the sectional each of the past three years – 14-2 to St. Pius last year, 11-0 to South Callaway in 2012 and 12-2 to New Bloomfield in 2011. Still, Imergoot seems more optimistic now than in the past couple of Marches.
“We’re ahead of where we were at this time last year,” he said. “I feel extremely optimistic. They’ve worked their tails off, they have good chemistry, there are no laggers and our skill levels are very good.”
The skills are especially high among the five returning Eagles who made all-conference last year as the team finished 11-7: pitchers Bradley Jones and Connor Hancock, and infielders Dylan McGehee, Blake Kelley and Tyler Pryor-Hall. First-teamers were Jones, McGehee and Kelley.
New Assistants, New Hip
So much is new in Brentwood baseball this year. Most obvious are the five new faces on the coaching staff. Imergoot’s assistants on the 16-player varsity team are Elliott Sterett and Adam Kobler, who played against each other in high school. Sterett graduated from Bayless in 2010 and Kobler from Brentwood in 2009.
The 14-player junior varsity team is headed by Tom O’Mara, with assistant coaching from Adam Hightower and Brooke Fox.
Less obvious is Imergoot’s new hip. He was in agony last season before having the hip replaced in June.
“Last year was difficult for me as a coach,” he said. “I was out a lot, had some personal issues. I was really down in the dumps with the hip, a lot of pain. It was a tough year for me. I thought I’d never referee again but I threw away the cane after five days and refereed 46 basketball games this winter. Now I feel as good as when I was 40.”
They say that baseball is hitting, pitching and defense. Here’s how the Eagles fare in each area.
A newcomer who is making waves is freshman Skylar Sappington. He’ll play catcher and Imergoot said he and McGehee have been the two most impressive hitters so far.
“We’ve got guys who are attacking the baseball,” the coach said. “You can tell. When guys just lay back and want to make contact they pop up or hit ground balls. Now we’ve got three or four guys who attack the ball, especially Dylan and Skylar.”
No Eagle attacks the ball more viciously than McGehee. As a sophomore two years ago he had one of the hottest bats in the St. Louis area, hitting .574. Last year his RBIs decreased and he ended up under .500 mostly because, Imergoot said, “the guys in front of him were not getting on base.”
The designated hitter will be Eric Suntrup. Justice Bratcher will be a pinch runner.
Bradley Jones was considered the team’s top pitcher in the preseason. But McGehee, who threw only in relief in 2013, has come on strong and now challenges Jones for the No. 1 spot. Both have worked with private pitching coaches, as has Seamus Saunders. Hancock and Mike Mills will also pitch, and Tyler Pryor-Hall will provide relief when needed.
“If we play smart, play well,” said Imergoot, “our pitching will carry us.”
Following are the leading candidates in each position, along with some commentary from Imergoot.
Catcher: freshmen Skylar Sappington and Steven Suntrup and senior Eric Suntrup. On Eric Suntrup: “He’s got a good attitude this year and I like that.”
First baseman: seniors Dylan McGehee and Marc Powells.
Second baseman: senior Connor Hancock, junior Zach Baum and sophomore Mike Mills. On Baum: “He works hard and runs like the wind.”
Shortstop: junior Tyler Pryor-Hall. “He has very good range at shortstop. He throws hard and eventually he could start, but right now we want him to be geared up for two to three innings tops, be able to shut people down.”
Third baseman: senior Blake Kelley and freshman Steven Suntrup. On Kelley: “Great leadoff man, fast, very good arm. I can’t ask for more at third base than him.”
Outfielders: seniors Roland Floyd, Marc Powells, Jack Wright and Lucas Jones. On Jones: “Probably the most improved player I’ve seen since last year. He has a very accurate arm and can catch the ball anywhere.”
Utility: seniors Eric Suntrup and Justice Bratcher, junior Baum and freshman Morgan Murphy.
Swing players: Playing both varsity and JV are Baum, Murphy and Steven Suntrup.
New Season, Same Philosophy
Imergoot has new assistants, a new hip, less pain and a refreshed outlook this season but some things will never change. First, there’s his enthusiasm for coaching. He started as a pitching coach under Jim Taylor in 1999 and he’s about to begin his 16th season at BHS.
“I’m like a little kid, I love it,” he said. “I’m 64 years old, 65 on April 14th, and I plan on being here at least until I’m 70, as long as God is good to me and I’m in shape.”
Second, there’s his way of doing things:
“Yesterday I told them that if you come to a game without a belt on or without black socks, you won’t play, I don’t care who you are. If you’re not up on the fence during the game, you won’t go into that game if you’re a substitute. You’re not going to sit on the bench unless you’re the pitcher or catcher. I demand excellence. I expect them to play hard at all times. Be gentlemen on the field. Show excellent character. Win graciously, lose graciously and strive to do better every game because that’s what makes you successful.”
Final 2013 Standings
South Central AA Conference
Valley Park 9-0
April 1, 4:15 p.m., St. Pius at Brentwood
April 3, 4:15 p.m., at Orchard Farm
April 4, 4:15 p.m., Bayless at Brentwood