Eastland's baseball program has become known, at least in part, for its pitching prowess in recent years.
If the Cougars are to keep that intact, junior right-hander Chase Giedd will likely have a lot to do with it.
Giedd was the team's third starter a year ago, behind seniors Ty Hartman and Matt Keppen. In five starts and two relief appearances spanning 29 2/3 innings, Giedd went 1-1 with a 4.24 earned run average.
"He was our No. 3, and when you lose two seniors, it's his time to step up," Eastland coach Weston Burkholder said. "He knows what is expected of him, and I think he's up for the challenge."
Giedd hopes to not only follow in the footsteps of Hartman and Keppen, but of his cousin, Tyler Giedd, who was Eastland's ace two season's ago, and now pitches at Highland Community College.
"He definitely helps me out," Giedd said of Tyler. "If I've got a question about a changeup, a curveball, a cutter, he'll help me out and tell me what he thinks. He's always there for me."
A sturdy 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, Giedd doesn't throw the ball exceptionally hard, topping out in the low 70s. He's able to spot his other pitches, however, and is in the process of learning a cutter, courtesy of assistant coach Dale Hartman.
His go-to pitch is a two-seam fastball, low and on the outside corner of the plate.
"Me and [catcher] Ramsey [Truckenmiller] have a lot of confidence in that pitch," Giedd said. "He gives me a spot, and most of the time I can hit it."
Giedd and the rest of the staff have the luxury of working with Truckenmiller, entering his third year as a starter. Truckenmiller is adept at shutting down an opponent's running game, blocks virtually anything thrown his way, and keeps the pitching staff focused on the task at hand.
"He knows me as well as I know him, and that helps a lot," Giedd said. "If I get down on myself, he'll call timeout, say it's alright, you're going to be OK. Just do what you know how to do."
The Cougars are coming off a 15-8 season, including a Class 1A AFC Regional championship. Acquiring regional plaques, however, aren't necessarily what they aspire to when it comes to baseball.
Eastland finished fourth at state in 2009, and second in 2011. Burkholder considers the Cougars one of the preeminent 1A programs in northern Illinois, and a team to be reckoned with every year when the postseason rolls around.
"Effort and attitude are the two things we can control," Burkholder said. "That's kind of what we've always built upon, and it's worked well for us. We always want to put ourselves in a position to win, and win the biggest games."
FYI: Went 1-1 with 4.24 ERA for Cougars in 2013. ... Expected to be team's top starter in 2014. ... Also plays football for E-PC