New Bloomfield graduate Derek Shikles was supposed to play baseball in Kentucky this summer, but with his performance Saturday in the Jefferson City Renegades' scrimmage, he relished the opportunity of playing closer to home.
Shikles, who currently plays college baseball at Westminster, went 2-for-5 with a double and a two-run single, leading the Renegades Gold team to a 9-4 victory in eight innings against the Renegades White team at Vivion Field.
"I'm 15 minutes away from home, so it's perfect," Shikles said. "I'm glad to get to be back on the field after a short spring."
Shikles flew out his first two times at the plate, but the Gold team still built a 4-0 lead through two innings. He scored after his leadoff double in the fifth, then he scored again after his single in the next inning to help increase the lead to 9-3.
"I'm feeling pretty good at the plate," Shikles said. "I'm just trying to square it up and sit on a fastball."
Shikles, a catcher, played in 13 games this spring with the Blue Jays before COVID-19 ended the spring sports season. He and some of his teammates are taking advantage of the Renegades' scrimmages to get in more games before next spring.
"I'm going to be living with most of those guys in the fall," Shikles said. "It's good to see them, and it's a good time playing with them. I'm enjoying it."
Shikles also had a good day defensively. In the bottom of the seventh, he threw out Wyatt Towe attempting to steal second base.
"It's been a while since I've done that, too," Shikles said. "That felt pretty good, pumped me up a little bit."
One of Shikles' Gold teammates, Fatima graduate Josef Keilholz, has gone longer since his last competitive baseball game. Keilholz redshirted this past school year at Northwest Missouri, so it had been more than a year since he last played, which was for the Comets in the Class 3 state championship game last June.
"The first night, I was pretty rusty," Keilholz said. "I was a little nervous, a little shaky, not used to it. But after that, I settled in."
Keilholz reached base in four of his five plate appearances Saturday, drawing a pair of walks, reaching on an error and hitting a single to right field in the eighth inning. Like Shikles, he also scored two runs.
"It's totally different," Keilholz said of facing live pitching compared to seeing pitches in a batting cage. "It's all about timing, and once you get out here, it's more fun and you get to face guys you know."
Keilholz was going to be on the Renegades' roster this summer if there had been a MINK League season. It may not be quite the same, but at least he still gets to put on a Renegades uniform during these three weeks of scrimmages.
"It's really helping me and all the other guys getting ready to go back to college," Keilholz said.
Pitching has seen improvement through the first four nights of scrimmages. Blair Oaks graduate Carson Wiebe pitched three innings of relief for the Gold team, striking out six of the 13 batters he faced while allowing an unearned run.
"Carson was like that in the high school season, he sometimes needed a few pitches to get going," Renegades coach Mike DeMilia said. "Once he got in a groove there, he was tough. It's his first time facing these college hitters, and he's holding his own well."
For the White team, Helias graduate Drew Boessen pitched two scoreless innings of relief in the third and fourth, striking out two batters. Jefferson City graduate Jack Shinkle walked the first batter he faced in the seventh, then struck out the next three.
"Today, he found his release point and got his breaking ball over the plate," DeMilia said of Shinkle. "When the kid's throwing that hard with that good of a breaking ball, he's going to be tough."
Each team finished with six hits. For the Gold team, Seth Gerardy had a two-run triple in the first inning.
For the White team, Helias graduate Zach Woehr had a two-run single in the fifth, while Wyatt Towe and Hayden Salmons each had two singles.
Salmons will be a senior this fall at Blair Oaks.
"Just coaching Hayden at Blair Oaks, I knew he could handle this offensively," DeMilia said. "He was right in there with those guys. He definitely showed he belonged today."
The Renegades will hold their final scrimmages Wednesday and Saturday, before wrapping up their summer July 29 with a home run derby.
"Even though it's only three weeks, it's still awesome to get out here," Shikles said. " Some people aren't getting to play at all this summer. We're pretty fortunate we get to come out here and play ball, especially on this nice field."