Baseball: Spring Valley hopes to ‘do something special’ at Senior League Central Region tourney

District 20 champion features players from 5 schools, 7 towns

Members of the Spring Valley District 20 baseball team meet on the mound during the Central Region Baseball Tournament on Monday, July 24, 2023 at Washington Park in Peru.

Ryan Ferrari has been coaching a group of Spring Valley baseball players since they were 8 years old, including his son, Geno, Braden and Jack Curran, Jaxson Pinter, Hunter Edgcomb and Clayton Fusinetti.

As the group got older, they’ve added players from other towns and schools.

Bureau Valley’s Logan Philhower and Putnam County’s Johnathon Stunkel, among others, were part of last year’s Spring Valley team that played in the Senior League Baseball Central Region Tournament in Peru.

This year, more players were added as Spring Valley earned a repeat trip to the region tournament, which begins Friday with opening ceremonies at Washington Park in Peru with pool play games starting Saturday.

The title game is at 3:30 p.m. July 18 at Washington Park.

St. Bede’s Gus Burr and Gino Ferrari and Fieldcrest’s Layten Gerdes are among the newcomers to the team of 15- and 16-year-olds.

“We did a little recruiting and talked to kids trying to persuade them to go out,” Ryan Ferrari said. “A lot of them play travel ball. We said, ‘Hey, we can do something special here.’ A lot of them bought into it. We practice when we can and, as you can see, we put together a nice ballclub.”

Spring Valley's Geno Ferrari fields a ground ball while playing Michigan during the Central Region Baseball Tournament on Monday, July 24, 2023 at Washington Park in Peru.

Ryan Ferrari said the players from different towns have meshed well together.

“Our jerseys don’t say Spring Valley, they say Illinois Valley,” he said. “I think there’s seven towns and five different high schools. There’s no rivalries with kids from different schools. These guys get along. They talk to each other all the time. They respect each other. It’s just a great group of kids and they have fun together, and when you win on top of it, it’s nice.

“It’s great for the Illinois Valley because it’s not just one town. The whole Illinois Valley is part of this, so it’s a great experience for everybody.”

The District 20 champions, who went 2-2 in last year’s tournament, open at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Illinois, one of nine state champions joining the tournament host in the field.

“With the crew we have with the arms we have and the way we can swing it, I think we have a chance,” Ryan Ferrari said. “As long as we stick together and we stay healthy, I’m hoping we make a deep run and maybe be there Wednesday fighting for a championship and to advance to South Carolina for the World Series.”

Spring Valley earned its spot in the region tournament with a 13-0, five-inning win over Ottawa in the district title game.

Philhower, Gerdes, Braden Curran, Stunkel, Burr, Cade Zimmerlein and Gino Ferrari are expected to log innings on the mound with other arms available, as well.

“We have a lot of guys, a lot of arms,” said Philhower, who pitched four scoreless innings in the district title game, allowing two hits while striking out seven batters. “I think we’re pretty deep and we can go pretty far.”

Ryan Ferrari said the team’s lineup has a mix of power and speed.

“I think we fell short with hitting last year,” said Stunkel, who went 4 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs in the district title game. “This year I think through the whole lineup we’re solid and finding lots of barrels.”

Spring Valley center fielder Jaxson Pinter squeezes the ball to make the final out of the third inning during the Central Region Baseball Tournament on Monday, July 24, 2023 at Washington Park in Peru.
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