WESTMONT – There is no such thing as a big-impact free agent in high school baseball, but Austin Loehman has been the prep-level equivalent this spring.
The junior transferred to Westmont after playing in Indiana last season and quickly found his groove with the Sentinels.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Loehman said of playing at Westmont. “Being on this team is a lot of fun. The team is really good and we all jell together really nicely.”
The game of baseball doesn’t change much from state to state – strikes are still strikes, the bases are still 90 feet apart and runs still count the same – but Loehman has noticed one big difference between playing in the Hoosier state and the Land of Lincoln, especially after he got his first taste of playing in the Interstate Eight Conference.
“From top to bottom, the conference is a lot better,” Loehman said. “You still have the top teams you see from both divisions [in the Interstate Eight], but all together the teams out here are a lot better overall.”
That slight jump up in competition didn’t seem to faze Loehman. He started the season 3-0 on the mound in three starts and has been a consistent contributor in the lineup. He walked, singled and scored a run in the Sentinels’ 19-16 slugfest loss against Peotone on Friday, yet Westmont head coach DJ Cocks has been most impressed by his contributions on the mound.
“He’s probably got the best curveball in the program,” the coach said. “He’s been battling for us. He’s a bulldog. Good things are going to come to him on the mound in the future.”
In his most recent outing, Loehman suffered the tough-luck loss in an 8-7 contest against Sandwich in which the Indians scored the winning run on a Westmont error in the 10th inning.
“He should have been out of [the inning] and we should have been into the 11th, but a routine ground ball goes through our legs and they win the game,” Cocks said.
Prior to that, though, Loehman impressed in a complete-game win against Dwight on April 17, even though his curveball wasn’t working the whole time.
“It took me a few innings to get my curveball in the strike zone, but after I did that everything seemed to click,” he said.
Cocks praised Loehman’s efforts, not only in that game but all season long.
“He’s stepped up and done a really good job for us,” Cocks said. “He fell into our laps, and we couldn’t be more excited about having him on the team with us this season. He’s doing a great job, and we’re proud of him.”