For the third time in five years, the Purple Panthers will have a new skipper patrolling the diamond at Litchfield High School as Conor White enters his first year as head baseball coach at Litchfield High School.
The 14th head coach at LHS, since 1935, Coach White brings a lot of baseball with him. A 2014 Sacred Heart-Griffin graduate, Coach White played four years of high school baseball and four years of college baseball, two years at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield and two years at the University of Indianapolis.
Even though Coach White is in his first year as a head coach, he does bring some coaching experience as he was an assistant coach at Lincoln Land Community College for a year, where he controlled the first base coaching box.
Baseball has been a family tradition for Coach White, as his father Loren White, a Hillsboro graduate, played baseball for Illinois State and was drafted in the 17th round of the 1985 Major League Baseball by the Montreal Expos. He also has a younger brother who played four years of baseball at Sacred Heart Griffin and four years at the college level, two year at Lincoln Land Community College and two years at the University of Southern Indiana.
Coach White enters his first year as a head coach with some unfamiliarity with Litchfield baseball and the South Central Conference but that has not affected his first couple of weeks as a baseball coach as he has received tremendous support from the school and the community. More importantly the players have accepted him, as Coach White explained the team has had great team chemistry so far this season.
“Our team has a lot of energy and I am thrilled about that,” said Coach White.
The positive atmosphere has been a great start, but Coach White knows there will be some challenges in the upcoming season.
“We are looking to improve on last year’s record and beating the teams we lost to last season,” said Coach White on a challenge for the upcoming season.
He is also hoping that “everyone’s arms stay healthy and that we get to play as many games as we can.”
With the current situation throughout the state of Illinois and the nation, the amount of games being played could be a bigger challenge than within. The Purple Panthers, previous opening day was scheduled for March 20, but with no school attendance the Purple Panthers will hope the April 1 date at Ramsey will be their first contest.
One game Coach White hopes to get in is the newly scheduled contest with Sacred Heart-Griffin. Coach White is excited to bring his team to battle on his old stomping grounds against his former assistant coach, SHG Head Coach Nick Naumovich.
Coach White will enter his first year with 30 players on the roster, four seniors, ten juniors, eight sophomores and eight freshman. The lack of consistent weather has prevented the boys of spring from hitting the diamond and leaves Coach White with a few more uncertainties.
“There are some things I do not know just yet.......Things that a coach can only know when you are playing on a grass and dirt field,” said White.
Coach White knows though, his boys are ready to hit the field and have a good season. A crutch this team can lean on this season is each other.
“Our practices have consisted of one player picking up the next and so on and so forth,” said White.
Junior Caleb Jurgena has been an early impact on the team so far this year as he “brings a lot of energy and a positive attitude to the team and that will help us tremendously in the season,” said Coach White.
He also looks for Jacob Budd, Blaine Stewart, Jacob Frerichs and Clayton Walch to be impact players this season as well. Frerichs will look to continue to put the ball in play this season as he did last year, when he batted .346 and led the team with five doubles, one triple and one home run. Frerichs was also second in RBIs behind graduating senior Billy Beckham.
Coach White looks for freshman Jacob Budd to surprise some teams this season.
“He has good size for a freshman, strong, and I can already tell he is fundamentally sound and understands the game of baseball well,” said White.
Litchfield will look to improve on both sides of the field throughout the season as they ended the season with a team batting average of .203, averaging three runs a game and a team ERA of 5.96, giving up an average of eight runs a game.
Energy and chemistry has been the common thread throughout the early season practices and has been a positive. As a coach those two elements of a team aren’t something that can be coached and starts with the players. Coach White has been fortunate to have a group of players that brings those two elements to the table and allows coach to coach the game.
The above gives the Purple Panthers an advantage in the season and will give the team a boost during their contests. Coach White knows how special those two elements are and he has seen that in his players. More importantly the players have noticed that and commented on how the team chemistry has improved, making practices enjoyable.
When the Purple Panthers hit the field, whenever that may be, the spectators will feed off their energy and chemistry. Litchfield will look to ride the energy and chemistry to a winning season, the first since the 2014 season, also their last South Central Conference title.