CHAMPAIGN -- The Parkland baseball team is loaded this season, thanks to a stellar pitching staff. After two former pitchers tried their hand at Division I, but decided to come back to Parkland.
Parkland baseball coach Dave Garcia got an unexpected call over the holidays that changed everything.
"I say Merry Christmas to me," Garcia said.
And a Happy New Year for the Parkland Baseball team. Sophomore pitcher Brady Schanuel was calling to say he was leaving Ole Miss and returning to Champaign.
"I just felt like I had some unfinished business here," Schanuel said. "When I went to Ole Miss some things just didn't work out and I felt like coming back here was my best option, open my recruiting and see how the draft goes."
It was not quite the path Schanuel saw himself taking.
"It was one of the toughest decisions I ever made in my life but I felt like it was for the best for my future and my baseball," he said.
"It added on to what I felt was already a deep team. Brady's come in, he's worked hard, and he's paid his dues all fall. He's gained weight," Garcia explained. "He looks great."
He's pitching great, too.
"This year I'm a lot more 94s-95s. Last year it was maybe touch 93, maybe I touched 94 once. Everything is a little better, a little more firm," Schanuel added.
But it's not just Schanuel's return that has added to Parkland's depth on the mound. Sophomore Jack Rettig also left the Division-I level to play at Parkland following a year at Illinois State.
"I was just one of those high school kids that wanted to be in the D-I level and I didn't realize what Parkland had to offer," Rettig explained. "It turns out to be better than what I expected."
The "ultimate reset button" as Garcia puts it, has also reset his team as they look to improve upon last year's trip to the national tournament.
"We know what we're supposed to do," Garcia said. "Ultimately we're just going to keep playing hard. We're just going to stay us and be us right now."
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