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Diamond Dogs aim to stop 5-year skid in 2018

Streator senior Hunter Telford - shown here dealing to a Reed-Custer batter last season - is one of a number of key contributors returning for the Diamond Dogs as they look to turn things around in 2018.
Streator senior Hunter Telford - shown here dealing to a Reed-Custer batter last season - is one of a number of key contributors returning for the Diamond Dogs as they look to turn things around in 2018.

Job No. 1 for the 2018 Streator Bulldogs and first-year head coach Beau Albert will be proving the past five years of more-often-than-not losing baseball have been the anomaly, not the new reality for what historically has been one of Streator High's most successful sports programs.
With nine returning seniors back from 2017's 8-19 ballclub and a promising junior class joining them, this spring's Diamond Dogs look to have the bark and the bite to begin the turnaround.
"I like what I've seen so far," said Albert, previously an underclass coach in the program, last in 2016. "The first week we (practiced) at 6 o'clock in the morning, and the kids were on time, ready to work. They've done everything I've asked them to do so far.
"We ended up keeping nine seniors and nine juniors this year, so we've got 18. I think that's a lot, and we have some kids who know their roles ... I think it's a situation where you'll have to put your role toward the goal ... and since I've been around them since winter workouts, everybody's been on the same page."
All nine seniors on the roster are back after logging meaningful innings last spring.
Center fielder Peyton Phillis (.419 batting average, .520 on-base percentage in 2017) was a Times All-Area First Team outfielder; pitcher Zack Grabowski (.200 batting average, team-best 2.49 earned-run average over 45 innings pitched) was a Times Second Team pitcher; and shortstop/pitcher Joey Byers (.363 batting average, team-high 13 RBIs; 6.10 ERA over 31 innings) was a Times Second Team middle infielder.
Infielders Mitch Vickers (.200 in 2017), Kyle Cantrell (.231) and slugger Daniel Gonzalez (.281, 11 RBIs) as well as outfielders/pitchers Max Starkey (.143) and Hunter Telford (.212) and catcher John Benckendorf (.231, 10 RBIs) also return and will man key roles, supplemented on the roster by juniors Chase Ramon, James McGurk, Cade Dutko, Brett Dresbach, Vern McKinley, Trevor Sember, Lucas Sharisky, Logan Colter and Jacob Bemont.
The corner infield and outfield spots are open to competition, Albert said, as are spots in the middle infield depending on who takes the bump.
The pitching rotation offers something the Diamond Dogs have lacked during these last five losing seasons — experienced, proven depth, starting with Byers, Grabowski and Telford.
"I think we have five kids who can step up and be the during-the-week and doubleheader starters," said Albert, "and then I think we have four or five guys, a junior and senior mix who can eat up a lot of innings out of the pen.
"Off the top, the strongest has been Byers. But then you're looking at Grabowski, Telford, Bemont and Sember, who can all step in and get quality starts for us. ... I think we have a lot of guys who can throw, a lot of guys who can start. I feel pretty confident in those guys ... and I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in than having John being a leader behind the plate."
Albert says a focus on fundamentals and a willingness to put pressure on opposing defenses will be hallmarks of this spring's Diamond Dogs when the season gets going — weather permitting, of course — with a March 17 home date (one varsity game, one JV) against the crosstown Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell Warriors in the first scheduled meeting on the baseball diamond between the crosstown rivals since 2004, which itself was their first meeting in 12 years.
While the ultimate goals of lofty victory totals and postseason championships remain, Albert knows the first step is to just get Streator High baseball back in the win column.
"Overall record, I would like to finish up over .500," he said. "If we can get 20 wins, that's great, but with this group I don't see any reason we can't be above .500 and be in the top three in the conference ... and get back to our winning ways.
Player Pos. Yr.
Joey Byers SS/P Sr.
Mitch Vickers IF Sr.
Kyle Cantrell IF Sr.
Max Starkey P/OF Sr.
Daniel Gonzalez 1B/DH Sr.
Peyton Phillis OF/P/IF Sr.
Zack Grabowski P/1B Sr.
Hunter Telford P/IF/OF Sr.
John Benckendorf C Sr.
Chase Ramon C/OF Jr.
James McGurk IF Jr.
Cade Dutko IF/OF Jr.
Brett Dresbach 1B Jr.
Vern McKinley P/CF Jr.
Trevor Sember P/IF Jr.
Lucas Sharisky P/Util. Jr.
Logan Colter IF/OF Jr.
Jacob Bemont P/3B Jr.
Head coach: Beau Albert
Date Opponent/Event Time
3/17 WFC 11 a.m.
3/22 PUTNAM COUNTY 4:30 p.m.
3/28 at La Salle-Peru 4:30 p.m.
3/29 OTTAWA 4:30 p.m.
3/31 at Morris 10 a.m.
4/4 at IVC 4:30 p.m.
4/6 PLANO 4:30 p.m.
4/7 at Rochelle 11 a.m.
4/9 at Herscher 4:30 p.m.
4/10 HERSCHER 4:30 p.m.
4/13 at Seneca 4:30 p.m.
4/16 at Manteno 4:45 p.m.
4/17 MANTENO 4:30 p.m.
4/20 at Lisle 4:45 p.m.
4/21 PRAIRIE CENTRAL (DH) 10 a.m.
4/23 at Reed-Custer 4:30 p.m.
4/24 REED-CUSTER 4:30 p.m.
4/27 SANDWICH 4:30 p.m.
4/30 WILMINGTON 4:30 p.m.
5/1 at Wilmington 4:45 p.m.
5/4 COAL CITY 4:30 p.m.
5/7 at Peotone 4:45 p.m.
5/8 PEOTONE 4:30 p.m.
5/10 at Westmont 4:45 p.m.
5/11-12 at L-P Cav Classic TBD
5/14 PONTIAC 4:30 p.m.
5/15 at Ottawa 4:30 p.m.
5/19 KANKAKEE 10 a.m.

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