Brentwood baseball coach Mike Imergoot gave Tyler Jones one piece of advice as he came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 3-3 game in the Class 2 district championship game against Maplewood.
"I just told Tyler to go up there and make contact," Imergoot said. The contact resulted in about a 10-foot squibber, but it was good enough to score Kevin Smith, who had led off with a triple, and give the Eagles their first district championship in 17 years.
"That win was the highlight of my life," Imergoot said. "It was a marvelous game. I wish I had it on tape."
The Eagles would lose their next game in the Class 2 sectionals to New Bloomfield, 12-2 (New Bloomfield made the Class 2 title game) but it was a very successful season as the Eagles finished 16-7 overall. They were second to Hancock in the South Central Athletic Association with a 7-2 mark.
"Winning the conference is always the first goal," said Imergoot, who has been with the team for 13 years. It was his first full season as head coach. That goal was not accomplished, but many more were for the Eagles, including an eight-game winning streak in the regular season.
It all started with strong pitching, according to Imergoot. "Ryan Jones and Kevin Smith were terrific," Imergoot said. "Those two were as dependable a pair of starters as there were in the conference."
Jones, who was a senior, was 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA. He struck out 56 in 47 innings while walking just 14. Smith, who was a junior, led the team with a 6-3 record. His ERA was also under three (2.96) and he struck out 53 while walking only eight in 48 innings. Southpaw junior Jesse Sneed also performed well on the mound with a 4-1 record and 3.29 ERA.
The offense from the top of the lineup was also consistent throughout the season. Smith led the team in both batting average (.441) and RBI (23). Senior Ryan Marshall also hit over .400 (.418) and drove in 13 runs. Freshman Dylan McGehee had an outstanding first high school season. He hit .386 with 19 RBI. Sneed hit .313 while Tyler Jones finished with a .293 average and drove in 18 runs.
Defense was also a major strength for the Eagles in 2011.
"We only allowed four runs a game and an excellent defense was a big part of that," Imergoot said. "The infield defense was very tight and the outfield was like a blanket. The good thing is that they will all be back.
"We are certainly going to miss players like Ryan Marshall and Ryan Jones but we have a lot of top guys coming back and our junior varsity team was 11-4. I am very optimistic about next year. I am ready to start tomorrow."