By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
The Gillespie High School baseball team got much more than just an ‘end of season’ banquet June 14.
In recognition of their historic 32-win campaign that featured an outright South Central Conference title, an undefeated regular season, the program’s 16th regional championship and a sectional semifinal victory, the Miners were treated to a parade and police escort through downtown before congregating for the final time at the high school.
Although they fell short of their ultimate goal of winning state, the experience of being surrounded by cheering fans with sirens blaring and Kool and the Gang’s hit song “Celebration” playing in the background was quite the consolation prize.
Additionally, the Miners were honored at a city council meeting just two days prior as Mayor John Hicks presented them with a proclamation.
Led by seniors Kamryn Link, Colton Bultema, Chase Helvey, Ian Brown, Bryan Jubelt and Jaiden Johnson, Gillespie set a school record for victories in a single season and doubled the program’s longest winning streak before finally bowing its head in defeat against third place state finisher Quincy Notre Dame.
After going undefeated in conference play (which GHS hadn’t accomplished since 1991) and repeating as SCC champions, the Miners took down their rival, Southwestern, 4-3 on enemy turf to claim a third regional crown in five years. Furthermore, they dealt the Birds their first home loss of the entire season.
Gillespie went on to beat Maroa-Forsyth, 7-2, in an eight-frame sectional semifinal rematch at Lincoln Land Community College. The Miners nearly collapsed after letting a one-run lead slip away in the bottom of the seventh but kept their eye on the prize and ultimately avenged a fatal 8-1 defeat that they had suffered against the Trojans in 2022.
Gillespie outscored its opponents by nearly six runs on average. The Miners’ offense compiled 8.6 tallies per game while the pitching and defense held opponents to just 2.3.
The Miners will have plenty of unfinished business on the docket for 2024 as they return a pair of incoming senior aces in Bryce Buhs (8-0, 1.45 ERA) and Tristan Wargo (4-0, 0.60 ERA). Buhs and Wargo additionally act as valuable offensive weapons. Wargo, for instance, batted .454 with a .556 on-base percentage while swiping a team-high 16 bags and crossing the plate 48 times.
All-Conference honorees Bryce Hohnsbehn (1B), Jack Kaylor (C) and Luke Schukenbrock (2B) will also be returning for Gillespie along with Jesse Berry, Daniel Wolber, Landen Emelander, Sean Haywood, Josh Feeley, Owen Pau, Owen Schweppe, Andrew Sellers, Brayden Enslow, Collin Griffith, Carson Hailstone, Dawson Lancaster, Hank Fletcher, Tyler Palmer, Zack Phillips, Brody Shaw and Brock Sherman.