Evan Davis led the Sauk Valley Community College baseball in every offensive category last season.
But while he set the bar in splits, power numbers and stolen bases, something was missing. Something unquantifiable.
His twin brother, Brady, threw all of one game – a complete-game shutout, no less – last season, during the team's annual season-opening trip to Florida.
In the process, the right-hander developed an injury in his throwing elbow. While he was able to avoid Tommy John surgery, his season was over.
"He struggled when he got hurt last year, and I know he missed the game of baseball," said Evan, a 2011 Sterling graduate.
"It was rough watching every day, watching us make mistakes and not being able to do anything about it," said Brady, also a member of the Class of 2011.
Which leads us to the other major thing that was missing: wins. The Skyhawks went 9-31.
One year later, that Florida trip yielded reasons for optimism.
"This was one of the first years that we went down there, played baseball, injury-free," sixth-year head coach Rene Valdez said. "There was nothing off the field, we were in bed every night at curfew, and none of my guys were lame in any game. They showed up ready to go. It ran so smoothly, it was scary."
Sauk came home with a 4-4 record and a .371 team batting average that sits fifth in the nation among NJCAA Division-II programs. Valdez also found a way to move Evan Davis from the leadoff spot to the 3-hole: Chad Lopez. The left-handed speedster freshman from Farmington impressed with a .611 batting clip.
"Now, it's a matter of finding a position for him," said Valdez, whose roster lists Lopez as a middle infielder. "He's quick, he can bunt, and he's going to look at a lot of pitches."
With assistant captain and prototypical No. 2 hitter Jacob Hillier penned in behind Lopez, Davis – a lefty hitter who throws righty – is excited for a new brand of pressure.
"The whole mentality of a leadoff batter is to get on base for others to get you in," Evan said. "Switching to the 3-hole, your job is about getting other people in. Either way, it's pressure, and you've gotta be willing to go out there and battle every single day."
Evan's teammates voted him team captain at the start of the spring season. The sophomore says he got a long look from Division-I University of South Carolina Upstate while in Florida after he hit .427, scored 31 runs and drove in 25 at the top last season. He will serve as the team's starting center fielder after posting a .980 fielding percentage last season.
His brother might line up to his left.
"Right now, our expectations are to have [Brady] as a two-way guy: a bullpen guy, or a spot starter – if his arm can hold up – and then, possibly, he'll be our right fielder," Valdez said.
For Evan, just having his brother on the lineup card is refreshing. Last season was uncharted territory, they both acknowledged at the team's practice facility Tuesday evening.
"We do everything together," they said in unison.
It's always been that way.
"We've been on the same team as long as I can remember," Evan said. "Not a lot of people can just go in their backyard and toss the rock around with their best friend, teammate and brother."
That's not to say they don't shake each other off from time to time.
"We're always butting heads on a lot of stuff," Brady said. "It doesn't matter if it's baseball, girls or school. It's always competitive."
Charged with the task of making sure they both compete all season is their dad, Chris Davis, who was brought on as the team's pitching coach last year.
"He's been my coach as long as I can remember, and he's kept with it," Brady said. "It's a really good luxury to have him around."
Don't be surprised if catcher and Rock Falls product Casey McCallister puts down the old number one more often this season when Brady toes the slab, even if he'd rather rely on his curveball and slider.
"That's pretty much what landed me with the elbow injury," Brady said.
Brady Davis' rehab has him interested in a physical therapy degree, while Evan is a numbers guy interested in analysis, business and accounting. Neither has signed a letter of intent. "It's gonna be weird next year, when we go to different colleges. We always have each other's back," Evan said.