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Family has been anchor to Cougars’ success

Truckenmiller convoy

Eastland's Ramsay Truckenmiller rounds second base during the Cougars' 12-4 win over Amboy on Saturday in the 1A AFC Regional championship game. It was Eastland's fourth regional title in five seasons.
Eastland's Ramsay Truckenmiller rounds second base during the Cougars' 12-4 win over Amboy on Saturday in the 1A AFC Regional championship game. It was Eastland's fourth regional title in five seasons.

There's a reason the Eastland baseball team keeps on truckin' to successful seasons.

In part, it's because there's been no shortage of Truckenmillers suiting up for the Cougars for more than a decade.

Brandon and Jeremy Truckenmiller were teammates of current Eastland baseball coach Weston Burkholder in the early 2000s.

Josh Truckenmiller followed a couple of years later, then Zach Truckenmiller was a 3-year starter at catcher from 2008-10.

The next, and last, at least for now, Truckenmiller to come through the program is Ramsay, who is in his second year as the team's starting catcher. He didn't start catching until eighth grade – "because nobody else wanted to do it," he said with a smile – but now wouldn't trade his role with the Cougars for anything.

"I love it," Truckenmiller said. "It's better than being in the field. I don't have to go get the ball – the ball's in my hand. You get to see everything that's going on, and you're in control."

Staff ace Ty Hartman (5-0) has won his last five decisions, the last four with complete games, due in part to his rapport with Truckenmiller.

"He's a great catcher. He's really good defensively, so if I get one in the dirt or too high, I'm confident that he's going to catch that for me," Hartman said. "And he's always calming everybody down. He never gets too riled up out there, even when things aren't going our way."

The family pipeline to Eastland High School started at Duane and Robyn Truckenmiller's country home, outside of Lanark. The family doesn't farm, but there is enough land adjacent to a corn field to hit all the baseballs and field all the grounders the boys wanted. Also getting in on the act was Tiffany, the lone girl among the siblings and a key Eastland softball team member about 5 years ago.

The driving force for improvement, according to Ramsay, was Robyn, who grew up in Hawaii, attended a high school with about 2,000 students and earned a spot on a 20-member softball team from about 200 that tried out for the squad. She later played at Air Force, where she met Duane.

"Mom would throw and hit with us, especially my three older brothers, but she was really tough on us about defense," Ramsay said. "We had to do everything just right."

Burkholder has no complaints about Truckenmiller when it comes to defense.

"I don't think there's been a whole lot of kids in the conference that have tried to run on him," Burkholder said. "I don't know if it's because of the Truckenmiller name, because Zach threw out quite a few runners, but Ramsay has got a good arm."

Surprisingly, Ramsay noted he hasn't gotten too much help in the catching department from Zach, as they maintain a friendly sibling rivalry. For instance, one of their competitions is to see who can do the most pushups.

Zach would crank out a thousand, or more, rather than lose to his little brother.

"I learned a couple of things from him, but he tries to keep some secrets from me," Truckenmiller said of catching tips. "He doesn't like to teach me all of his tricks."

At the plate, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Truckenmiller has emerged as a force. He is the No. 3 hitter in the lineup and has delivered a .421 batting average with five doubles, four home runs and the team's only triple. He also has 27 runs batted in, second on the team to Austin Young's 29.

The Cougars (15-7) won their fourth regional in the last 5 years this past Saturday, and figure to be a tough out when the River Ridge Sectional begins on Wednesday. Eastland will take on Scales Mound/River Ridge in the semifinal, and the ultimate goal is to get back to state.

The 2011 squad reached the 1A title game, ironically, without a Truckenmiller in the lineup. Dylan Stichter was the catcher for the Cougars, who fell to Carrollton in the finals.

"We put a lot of work into this all year-round," Truckenmiller said. "Everyone's committed. I think we can go far."

Truckenmiller file

School: Eastland

Class: Junior

FYI: 2-year starting catcher for Cougars. ... Older siblings Brandon, Jeremy, Josh, Tiffany and Zach played baseball / softball at Eastland. ... Batting .421 this season

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