After leading the Explorers to a 22-11 record and a Class 2A regional title, Marquette Catholic’s Tim Fahnestock is the 2017 Telegraph Small-Schools Baseball Coach of the Year.
Billy Hurst / For The Telegraph
ALTON – The number of seasons without 20 victories or a postseason championship were growing for a proud Marquette Catholic Explorers baseball program.
Coach Tim Fahnestock hoped to achieve one of those elusive milestones in 2017. The Explorers got them both.
“It was cool that it happened in the same year,” Fahnestock said. “I was really happy for the kids. They set the goals. Win the conference, we did that. Win the regional, we did that. And we got our 20 wins.”
Marquette finished 22-11 on its way to a Prairie State Conference championship. It was the Explorers’ first 20-wins season since 2013. The Explorers then produced their first postseason title since 2012 by claiming the Belleville Althoff Class 2A Regional.
“We fell short in the sectional,” Fahnestock said of a semifinal defeat to eventual state champion Teutopolis, “but it was a very good year and the kids should be happy and not hang their heads.”
Fahnestock completed his fourth season as Marquette head coach after 16 years as an Explorers assistant under Greg DeCourcey and then Joe Silkwood.
“Joe was very helpful in the transition,” Fahnestock said. “He helped me get the job, knowing that I was there all those years and I wanted to see the program continue going in the direction it has been going.”
Fahnestock, who owns a 73-50 record, also played under DeCourcey before graduating from Marquette in 1993. DeCourcey was the Explorers coach for 33 years and won 641 games, with Class A state titles in 1980 and ’84 and a runner-up finish in ’88.
Upholding the tradition built on a foundation of seven state tourney trips in 12-year stretch from 1978-89 is a priority for Fahnestock.
“You look at Marquette baseball, first you look at Greg DeCourcey,” Fahnestock said. “And I think Steve Angelo was there with him for 30 years. Both those guys influenced me. … Greg instilled the love of baseball. You buy into it and it’s a great thing.”
DeCourcey, along with Angelo, remains a coaching influence for the Explorers. “He loves to come in and work with the kids,” Fahnestock said of DeCourcey.
But the responsibility of leadership is now Fahnestock’s. And after splitting their first 10 games last spring, the Explorers went on a run that yielded 11 victories in 12 games with Player of the Year candidate Liam Maher — “an on-field leader who tore it up with the bat,” Fahnestock said – and a deep pitching staff taking on lead roles.
“All the seniors stepping up,” Fahnestock said of the key to that midseason surge, “and doing their job, being good leaders. … No matter what, everybody did as they were asked, never really questioned anything or bellyached or anything. It was a good group of kids.”