Michael Brewer

Hillsboro graduate (2019) Michael Brewer throws a pitch against Vianney in the Class 5 sectionals last month. Brewer has a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Southern Mississippi and was recently drafted by the Texas Rangers.

On June 5, 2019, Brewer was selected by the Texas Rangers as overall pick 955 in the 32nd round of the major league baseball first-year player draft.

Now the 6-5, 215-pound pitcher who just graduated from Hillsboro has a decision to make. Will he head to Hattiesburg, Miss., this fall on scholarship to play baseball for the University of Southern Mississippi? Or will the Rangers cough up enough cash for Brewer to start his pro baseball career now?

Brewer will get plenty of help making such a crucial life decision from his parents, coaches and network of baseball friends, some of whom have been in the same situation. Brewer’s father, Matt Brewer, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 19th round of the 1991 amateur draft.

Hillsboro head coach Kevin Lucas got to see Brewer’s rise from his freshman year, and since Brewer is also an accomplished basketball player, Lucas wasn’t sure what sport he’d play in college. But when you’re Brewer’s size and have his athletic talent, putting a baseball in his hand and sending him to the mound made the most sense.

“That’s really exciting. That’s something all little kids dream about,” said Lucas of Brewer being drafted. “For that to happen for Michael is exciting for him, the family and this program.

“From what I’ve talked to him, the (Rangers) will call him with an offer. It’s a tough decision, but it’s win-win. If he goes to the Rangers, he’ll get his pro career started. If he goes to Southern Miss, there’s not a wrong answer. His family will help him make the right decision. I’ve talked to him multiple times about it. He’ll be fine whichever route he goes.”

Brewer was one of three Hillsboro players selected to the Jefferson County Activities Association first team and was also voted as the conference’s player of the year. Christian Hancock completed his senior year as a first-team infielder and junior Isack Hamilton is the conference’s top catcher. Brewer rose from the second team in 2018 and Hancock was honorable mention last year.

The Hawks beat Seckman 8-6 in the Class 5 District 1 championship, which was Hillsboro’s first district title since 2011. Brewer started against Vianney in the sectionals, but after hitting a first-inning home run, the Griffins roughed him up on the mound and won 9-1. The Hawks finished 14-7 overall and were 3-1 in the league. Festus had the same league mark, but Hillsboro won the conference title by virtue of a 5-2 win against the Tigers.

Brewer was 5-1 on the mound (his only loss was in the sectional), had an ERA of 3.09, and recorded 69 strikeouts in 43 innings.

“He was outstanding for us. His one blemish was against Vianney,” said Lucas, who was named the league’s large-schools coach of the year. “He was such a big leader on the field and he did so much for the team people didn’t see. But our coaches noticed. If someone wasn’t paying attention, he’d give the kid a tap and get him focused. The kids really seemed to listen to him and that’s what made us successful this year.”

Lucas knew going into the season he had two aces. And even though Hancock got the first-team nod because of his skills as a middle infielder and his hot bat, he also had a record of 5-1 on the hill and his ERA was 1.83. Hancock fanned 62 batters in 38 1/3 frames. In a 1-0 complete-game shutout over Windsor, Hancock struck out 11 Owls in a key victory that helped decide the league title. At the plate, Hancock batted in front of Brewer at cleanup and led the Hawks in batting average (.465), doubles (9), triples (5) and RBI (22).

“Teams had to worry about both of them all year,” Lucas said about his hitting combo. “On the mound is where Christian really stepped it up. He threw a 1-0 shutout against Windsor that helped us win the conference. He threw a great game against Jackson. He and Michael were two of the most valuable players on our team.”

Junior Isack Hamilton was voted as the conference’s top catcher. Hamilton batted .300 and was second on the team in doubles (8) and RBIs (18). Lucas said Hamilton made just one error behind the plate and caught almost every inning and he’ll be a three-year starter at the position in 2020.

“He was out there every day. He stepped up his game tremendously this year,” Lucas said. “He held the other team’s running game in check. He had some big-time RBIs for us.”

Charlie Pratt wasn’t on the all-league’s radar in 2018. But the Festus right-hander improved so much in one year, the coaches voted him onto the first team as a pitcher with Brewer and Windsor’s Chase Beard.

Pratt hones his pitching during the summer for the Festus Post 253 American Legion team, and that experience helped him become an all-conference player in the spring. The Tigers were 6-16 overall and Pratt’s record of 1-4 could have easily been 4-1. His ERA was 2.81 and like the other top pitchers, his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 58-19 sets a high standard.

“Charlie tossed 13 scoreless innings against Windsor and Hillsboro, who are very strong offensive teams,” Festus head coach Jeff Montgomery said. “He was a tough competitor all year and gave us a chance to win every time he pitched.”

In 15 of Windsor’s 27 games, the outcome was decided by three runs or less. That meant the Owls had to have steely resolve to turn in a record of 17-10. Windsor had some of the top arms and defensive talent in the league.

Beard might have gotten the nod for first-team pitcher, and his record of 8-1 and microscopic ERA of 0.17 got the attention of everyone. But consider teammates Connor Hartmann (1.28 ERA), Gavin Kinworthy (0.00), Matt Martin (1.77), Justin Van Etten (0.00) and Derek Williams (0.38) were just as sharp when they took the hill. Kinsworth and Van Etten combined to pitch 9 1/3 innings, but the others all completed at least 18 1/3 frames.

Windsor lost 6-2 to Lutheran South in the Class 4 District 3 championship, but it wasn’t the Owls’ last game of the season. Two weeks later, Windsor beat Alton 6-3 at Busch Stadium in a makeup game.

Strictly a pitcher (he had just four plate appearances), Beard struck out 59 and walked only 10 in 41 innings. He tossed two scoreless innings against Alton.

“He was unbelievable. He was a workhorse for us,” Windsor head coach Jeff Young said. “He got his mind straight to pitch with his ability this year. He’s got good stuff. He’s got a slurve (slider-curveball combination) and he got better not being results-orientated and went pitch by pitch.”

Sophomore Derek Williams made the first-team selection as an outfielder. Williams patrolled left field and was the Owls’ top hitter at .383. He also led the team with seven doubles, two home runs and 19 RBI. When Pierce Hartmann, also a first-teamer, pitched, Williams took his place at shortstop.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete and he has room to grow,” Young said. “He’s arguably our best hitter and it’s going to be fun watching him the next two years. He’s only going to get better. The ball jumps off his bat.”

Pierce and his older brother, Connor Hartmann, both made it to the first team. Connor was a senior and made it as a utility player, while Pierce, who will be a senior in a couple of months, was named to the team as an infielder. Pierce outhit Connor .343 to .279 and Pierce was 3-0 on the mound, even though his ERA of 3.28 was much higher than Connor, who also pitched more innings (49 1/3 to 25).

“Pierce did a great job for us at shortstop and hit fifth for us most of the year using a wood bat,” Young said. “On the mound, he doesn’t have the same stuff as Connor, but he does a great job of grinding out wins and keeping us in the game.”

Young said Connor was given the ball in all of Windsor’s toughest games. Connor pitched against Festus and Hillsboro and didn’t allow an earned run. After playing shortstop two years ago, he was moved to third this year and excelled again.

“He’s just a great ballplayer. He put the ball in play and knows baseball in and out. He works hard and is competitive,” Young said.

De Soto finished the season 11-10 and came very close to upsetting NorthCounty in the Class 4 District 2 tournament. The second-seeded Raiders nipped the third seed Dragons  4-3 in the district semifinals, ending De Soto’s first winning season in six years.

Recently graduated Camren Krodinger and senior-to-be Kameren Brooks were both chosen to the first team, Krodinger as an infielder and Brooks as an outfielder.

Krodinger, who mostly played at second base this season, was relegated to the JV last year after he transferred from St. Pius X, but the multi-sport athlete shined in whatever uniform he donned for the school. At the plate, he batted .306 with five doubles and 11 RBIs. Krodinger’s brother, Nick, was the shortstop.

“Once we moved him to second base, he only had two errors,” De Soto head coach Matt Buechting said. “Early in the season we were trying to find our best group defensively. As an infielder, he saved a lot of our pitchers with his range. He ran those balls down in no-man’s land. He hit in the middle of the lineup and was one of our most consistent guys.

“He can hit for power and he only struck out a handful of times. He was always going to give you good at-bats.”

Brooks had 28 hits in 59 at-bats to lead De Soto with a batting average of .475. Brooks struck out just three times all year and led the Dragons with 16 RBIs. Playing right field, Brooks threw out a runner at home plate to help De Soto secure a 2-0 win against St. Clair.

“He played there every day. He covered it well and has an above-average arm. He was our most reliable outfielder this year,” Buechting said.

Buechting reflected on the winning spring.

“Once we got things going, I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “We will return the majority of our pitching staff and key contributors. We’re in a decent spot.

“We gave too many teams chances to extend innings. We relied on five or six sophomores for innings this year and that will put them ahead of the curve (in 2020).”