"Obviously both teams want to win," Effingham coach Chris Fleener said. "Both teams always try to be competitive. It goes back to taking it one game at a time."
St. Anthony's recent string of success, including its improvement on the mound, has Miller hopeful that his squad will get the job done."We've struggled at times with defense, but I think we're okay now," he said. "I think we've figured it out. The kids have really worked on it, I'm proud of them."Last Monday, Miller called his players in for one-on-one meetings, where they hashed out any problems and steered the ship back in the right direction. "Since then, we've played a lot better," he said. "A lot more emotion, a lot more passion."St. Anthony will need this passion against Effingham's Devin Mayfield, as well as Dirk and Drew Levitt. The three, in addition to Braydon Bone and Preston Walker, could all make appearances on the mound for the Hearts.
"We've got about four or five pitchers," Fleener said. "Our pitchers are capable of throwing strikes, a lot of them can be pretty effective."In any case, Miller's squad will need to come up with some timely hitting to help energize the St. Anthony crowd, one that promises to be a rather large one."We're talking 400 to 500 people out there every night," Miller said. "The student section is out there BBQ'ing. The games are fun, it is a rivalry, just a little bit more friendly."
Miller's City Series counterpart agreed that the atmosphere is unmatched.
"You don't see that at a whole lot of high school games," Fleener said. "Not just parents and families, but kids from other schools. T-town boys come over and watch sometimes, some Beecher City kids. It's just a neat atmosphere."
While both teams will use the game as a measuring stick as they approach postseason play, St. Anthony would love to push that friendship aside, as least momentarily, to get back on the winning side of the City Series.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org