Imergoot says hitting lineup is deepest he’s had in years
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Despite having nine seniors last season, the Brentwood High School baseball team finished in fourth place in the South Central Athletic Association Conference. Now they have only one senior, so you might think they’ll be lucky to match last year’s 4-5 league record.
But guess what. The Eagles have beaten their first two South Central opponents and are enjoying a 3-1 record heading into Saturday’s Brentwood Invitational. On Tuesday they came from behind to beat Hancock in extra innings and on Wednesday they rocked Bayless 13-1. Their only loss is to Class 5 McCluer North.
Yes, there are still a million games to play and BHS’s starting nine includes a freshman and four sophomores, but there’s some excitement in the home dugout at Brentwood Park.
One reason is offense. Minus the loss to McCluer North, the Eagles have outscored others 30-8. And it’s not coming from only two or three players. Seven Eagles got hits against Bayless.
“This is the best group I’ve had in years in terms of being able to hit all the way through the lineup,” said fifth-year head coach Mike Imergoot. “Our [number] one, two, three, four, five and six [hitters] are strong.”
He was referring, in order, to Charles Jones, John Bischoff, Skylar Sappington, Mike Mills, Alex Cobb and Bradley Jones.
Three new players provide a second reason for optimism. Cobb may be a freshman but he’s gotten six hits in his first 12 at-bats.
“He’s a freshman playing third base for the first time in his life,” said Imergoot. “He’s a very good hitter, very strong.”
Charles Jones, it turns out, does more than lead the basketball team in scoring. He’s BHS’s leadoff hitter and starting shortstop. Against Bayless he scored three runs and stole three bases. The junior transferred from Class 5 Parkway South, where last year, he said, “I played a little varsity.”
Bischoff, a sophomore, is the most exciting Brentwood underclassman since Dylan McGehee made All-Metro as a sophomore in 2012. He grew up in Brentwood and last year played varsity games for Class 5 Chaminade. He has quickly become the Eagles’ No. 1 starting pitcher. He’s 2-0, has struck out 16 and has an ERA of 1.73.
“John is a talent,” said Imergoot. “He has velocity. The plate umpire [vs. Bayless] said he was throwing 82 to 83 mph today and he wasn’t throwing hard. By the time he graduates, and even by next year, he might be 90. He’s a big body with his shoulders. He’s a little bit of a hotdog and I say that in a complimentary way. You need guys like that. He’s loose, you know? He pushes the envelope a little bit but it’s sportsmanlike, and I like that.”
Bischoff enjoys pitching, which he didn’t get to do for Chaminade.
“I played mostly shortstop,” he said. “I don’t pitch on my select team but it’s pretty fun for me. I like doing it.”
Bischoff’s presence is especially welcome in the absence of Seamus Saunders, who made all-conference as a sophomore pitcher last season but didn’t come out this year.
Bradley Jones, Sappington also pitching
The other two leading pitchers are Bradley Jones and Sappington. Jones worked out in the offseason at Athletic Republic in Frontenac and at Balls-n-Strikes in Brentwood.
“I feel like I’m a little stronger and better,” he said. “I got to pitch a little bit over the winter so I’ve come back with more power.”
Relief pitchers are Charles Jones and Morgan Murphy.
Young and hopeful
But even with the consistent hitting lineup and the new transfers in Bischoff and Charles Jones, Brentwood is young and untested. Leaders will have to emerge to steer the team when the water gets rough.
“It’s a young team – I’m the only senior,” said Bradley Jones. “I think we need a little more time to develop to our full potential. I don’t think we’re playing at our capability yet.”
Asked to name the biggest difference between the 2014 and 2015 teams, he replied, “This year is a little different because we don’t have as much leadership. There’s not as much command on the field as we’d like to have.”
Murphy is as affected by the nine departing seniors as anybody. After all, he’s playing first base in the spot where Dylan McGehee stood a year ago. But he’s full of a sophomore’s hope.
“I definitely have some big shoes to fill after Dylan McGehee left,” Murphy said. “But with this group of guys we can go pretty far this year. I have a good feeling about this team.”
April 15: at Brentwood 13, Bayless 1
Back-to-back five-run innings turned a 3-0 lead into a rout as BHS stayed undefeated in the conference.
In a model of team effort, seven Eagles got hits, six scored runs and five had RBIs. Bayless pitchers Luke Ferris and Nate McAleenan had trouble keeping up with the Joneses especially, as Bradley and Charles combined for six runs, five stolen bases and four hits. Even the bottom of the order was whacking the ball — Murphy, Stephen Suntrup and Wright hit the game’s only doubles.
In bumping his record to 2-0, Bischoff gave up just one single and struck out eight in 4.1 innings.
“Early in the game my slider was working pretty well,” he said, “but then in the later innings my arm started getting sore so I stuck to my fastball.”
Bayless is 1-6.
April 14: Brentwood 6, at Hancock 5
The Eagles trailed 3-1, tied the game in the sixth inning and outscored the Tigers 3-2 in the eighth in both teams’ conference opener.
“We faced a little adversity and battled back,” said Imergoot.
The tie-breaking rally in the eighth started with Bischoff reaching on an error by the left fielder. He scored on Sappington’s double, who then scored on Mills’s double. Another error by the left fielder scored Mills, and the Eagles led 6-3.
Hancock thrilled its home crowd by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth and putting the winning run at second base.
“Then this guy hits a shot down the left field line,” recalled Imergoot. “It could have been foul but at the time we didn’t know that; we thought the game was over. But Eddie Wright, who is a marvelous outfielder, just glided over there and made the catch. Game over.”
Sappington pitched the first four innings and was replaced by Bradley Jones when his pitch count reached 80. Jones got the win. The losing pitcher was Kyle Matt.
April 11: at McCluer North 10, Brentwood 0
Don’t blame McCluer North for piling on here. The Stars began the game with a 1-5 record during which they were outscored 55-10, including four losses to their fellow Class 5 Parkway schools. Facing Class 3 Brentwood was a chance to get back on track and they did.
The unfortunate recipients of North’s frustration were Brentwood pitchers Charles Jones, Bradley Jones and Murphy. In his pitching debut as an Eagle, Charles Jones walked three and surrendered three earned runs, all in the first inning. Bradley came on in the second and over four innings allowed five earned runs on four hits. Murphy gave up four singles and two runs in 1.1 innings.
Brentwood’s hitting was no better. Bischoff and Cobb singled for the only two hits surrendered by winning pitcher Tommy Woods.
Brentwood’s recent batting order
1. Charles Jones, junior, shortstop
2. John Bischoff, sophomore, pitcher
3. Skylar Sappington, sophomore, second base
4. Mike Mills, DH, junior
5. Alex Cobb, freshman, third base
6. Bradley Jones, senior, center field
7. Stephen Suntrup, sophomore, catcher
8. Morgan Murphy, sophomore, first base
9. Eddie Wright, junior, left field
April 18 host Brentwood Invitational:
11:45 vs. Madison Prep
3:15 vs. McCluer South-Berkeley
6:45 vs. Carnahan
Brentwood’s record 3-1
April 1, won 11-2 vs. Northridge, WP Bischoff
April 11, lost 10-0 at McCluer North, LP C. Jones
April 14, won 6-5 at Hancock, Crossroads, WP B. Jones
April 15: won 13-1 vs. Bayless, WP Bischoff
Click here to see the team’s website.