12/08/2015 9:20 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – December 8, 2015 – When summer rolls around, Oil City Stadium will be a good place for Eastern Illinois baseball fans to receive a glimpse of the program’s future.
Panthers’ catcher Zack Forney has been added to the 2016 Oilmen roster, becoming the third member of the school’s current freshman class to agree to play for Northwest Indiana’s Midwest Collegiate League club.
Eastern Illinois, a Division I Ohio Valley Conference program, is attempting to rebound from a 13-36 season that led to the departure of longtime coach Jim Schmitz. First-year head coach Jason Anderson believes the group of freshmen – which includes Oilmen Forney, Jordan Flint and Jimmy Govern – has the approach needed to help change the team’s fortunes.
“None of them like to lose,” Anderson said. “They’re very focused on winning and they’re willing to do whatever it takes. That’s the kind of culture that we’re trying to establish as a team. These guys epitomize it. Every player has something that they have to work on. These guys really attack that hard and they want to be as good as they possibly can as fast as they can.”
Forney, a graduate of Cary-Grove High School and native of Cary, Illinois, was an all-conference player a year ago. He considers himself a defensive catcher and is continually working to polish his defensive game.
“He’s accurate and he’s got a pretty good arm,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to get him stronger over the course of the year, which is what we typically do with most freshmen. He doesn’t give up too many stolen bases.”
Forney spoke with EIU catcher Josh Turnock and pitcher Hunter Clark about their experiences while playing for the Oilmen during the 2015 season. Their recommendation coupled with the fact that it allowed Forney to stay close to home made the decision to play for the Oilmen an easy one.
Before the summer season begins, Forney and his Eastern Illinois teammates have a tall task at hand as they look to climb the OVC standings. The spring season gets underway on Feb. 19 at Southern Mississippi, while conference play cranks up against Austin Peay on March 3.
“We’re working our tails off,” Forney said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. The culture is really changing and it’s a good program to be a part of right now. The culture is going to help give us a push to win a lot of games.”
Whether it’s in the spring at Eastern Illinois or in the summer sun at Oil City Stadium, when Forney is behind the plate, he plans to take the reins.
“I take pride in being able to control the game,” Forney said. “Control the pitchers, control the running game with my arm and by trying to block every ball possible. I have to keep pitchers in their rhythm.”
The summer will provide a pivotal test for the EIU freshman trio, as they endure their first year of playing nonstop baseball from August to September.
“It wears your body down,” Anderson said. “They’re trying to get as many reps as possible during the summer. It gets them away from the college coaching staff and gets them into the hands of the summer coaches for a different perspective. It’ll be good to let them play ball and hopefully get a taste of winning.”