Every player dreams of being the hero in a big game. The opportunity to deliver a game-winning hit is scarce to begin, let alone in a Super Sectional while trailing with a State Tournament berth on the line.
Bryce Foster was afforded such an opportunity against Okaw Valley, and didn’t miss.
Foster hit a walk-off two-run double off the right field wall to send Marquette to State for the first time in 19 years, but there was nothing surprising about Foster rising to the occasion. The senior third baseman provided the muscle in a Marquette lineup that excelled at getting on base, and made the most of the opportunities to bring them in. Foster drove in an area-best 51 runs, and drove in multiple runs in a game 15 times. He also led the area in doubles (17) and extra-base hits (21), tied for the area lead in homers (3), and did all of that while hitting .363.
Foster was terrific on the pitcher’s mound as well, pitching to a 1.21 ERA and a 6-1 mark in 46 1/3 innings. He was a prolific strikeout pitcher with 74 on the season, and limited opponents to a .105 batting average. He fired a five-inning no-hitter against Putnam County on April 17, hurled a three-hit shutout against Serena in the regional championship game, scooped up well-earned Tri-County Conference Pitcher of the Year and First-Team All-Conference honors, and was recently named The Times Baseball Player of the Year.
And now, Foster will add to an already impressive collection of accolades. Time and time again, Foster was called upon in big spots and in big games. Time and time again, whether pitching or manning the hot corner, Foster answered the bell. And for that reason, he is the All-WCMY Most Valuable Player.
While Foster shined brightest, he was not the only star in the WCMY listening area. Here’s who joins him on the first-ever All-WCMY Baseball Team:
Two pitchers, one player at each position, and two additional players were selected to the All-WCMY Baseball Team, chosen among playes from Marquette, Ottawa, Seneca, Serena and Streator. Each school received at least one First Team selection. Position players required two plate appearances per team games played to be eligible, while pitchers required two innings per appearance. Athletes were selected either as pitchers or according to their primary positions in the field.
Pitcher: Trace Berggren (Serena)
Berggren was among the area’s premiere aces, pitching to a 1.45 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. The senior left-hander walked off the mound a winner in his final outing, a six-inning, nine-strikeout effort that led Serena to 4-1 upset of Princeville in the Marquette Regional semifinals. The Division II Maryville University-bound southpaw was an impact player who hit .403 with 12 RBIs while working a listening-area-best 21 walks.
Pitcher: Joey Byers (Streator)
The Heartland Community College-bound senior pitched to a sparkling and listening area-best 0.84 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. He averaged 6 2/3 innings per appearance, struck out 50 batters and proved to be a workhorse for the Bulldogs. No less tough at the dish, Byers anchored Streator’s offense with a .361 average, three homers, nine doubles, 22 RBIs and 28 runs scored.
Pitcher: John Thompson (Marquette)
The big right-hander pitched to a 7-1 mark and a 1.15 ERA in the regular season, then found himself right in the middle of the action during the Crusaders’ postseason run. He bounced back from a shaky outing in the sectional semifinals to pitch the final five innings of the Super Sectional, limiting a high-powered Okaw Valley lineup to only three runs.
Catcher: Preston Duffy (Serena)
A monster in the Huskers’ order, the senior backstop finished second in the WCMY listening area with a .444 batting average. He tied for the area lead with three homers, and finished with 12 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs on the season.
First Baseman: Michael Killelea (Marquette)
“Tank” concluded his senior campaign with a .299 average, nine extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. He was solid defensively and adept at digging out throws to first, proving to be a key part of a defense that averaged only 1.4 errors per game.
Second Baseman: Wyatt Hill (Ottawa)
It’s one thing to regularly play multiple positions, another thing to play multiple positions while also flirting with a .400 batting average, and an entirely different animal to play your way off the bench. Such was Hill’s unlikely season. The junior middle infielder ascended from pinch hitting duties in March to an everyday role and a .391 average that was fifth-best in the WCMY listening area. Hill drove in 15 runs and stole nine bases as well.
Third Baseman: Bryce Foster (Marquette)
Shortstop: Nate Melvin (Marquette)
The WCMY listening area’s premiere leadoff hitter, Melvin was one of only two players to record 50 hits in the 2018 season, and the only player to exceed 40 runs scored. (In fact, he gave 50 runs a scare, settling for 48.) He finished with a .417 batting average that ranked third in the area, was tied for third-best with nine doubles, and stole a second-base 16 bases. Add all that to outstanding defense, and there were few who had better seasons than the Crusaders’ junior.
Shortstop: Sam Grushkin (Seneca)
Seneca’s ace and among its big bats, Grushkin was asked to shoulder a great deal of the load during his senior season. He responded with a steady and impressive campaign, hitting .364 to rank second on the team by two points. Grushkin was handed the ball in Seneca’s biggest games as well, and recorded a 3.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings.
Outfield: Jared Herzog (Ottawa)
The junior center fielder swung a hot bat for the Pirates, finishing the year with a .370 batting average, eight extra-base hits and 17 RBIs. A speed merchant, he stole 10 bases for the Bucs to rank among the top 10 in the listening area. Herzog also emerged as Ottawa’s ace, pitching to a 1.75 ERA over his final four starts and finishing with a 4.35 ERA in 37 innings.
Outfield: Logan Komater (Marquette)
Marquette doesn’t go to State without Komater’s bat, a consistent force in the three-spot. Komater led the area with a .463 average, ranked second in runs (39) and RBIs (39), and added 11 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases while striking out only eight times in 34 games. He had 15 multi-hit games and 11 multi-RBI games, and with teammate Melvin was one of only two players in the area to record 50 hits for the season.
Outfield: Peyton Phillis (Streator)
The area leader in stolen bases with 21, the Bulldogs’ senior center fielder was capable of hurting opponents in multiple ways. He hit .413 to rank fourth in the area, drove in 19 runs, scored 26 times and clubbed eight extra-base hits.
HONORABLE MENTION: Connor Baker (C/SS, Serena); John Benckendorf (C/3B, Streator); Luke Couch (2B, Marquette); Zach Dyche (C, Marquette); Ben Lundy (SS/3B/P, Ottawa); Shane Reynolds (P, Marquette); Uriah Tobolsky (C, Seneca); Mitch Vickers (UT, Streator); Nathan Weitzel (2B/3B, Ottawa)