Chippewa trio making mark on Eau Claire Cavs

November 21, 2012

Chippewa Falls has been good to Eau Claire Cavaliers coach Mark McHorney and his team.

Wisconsin State League

This article was originally written on July 29, 2012.

EAU CLAIRE — Chippewa Falls has been good to Eau Claire Cavaliers coach Mark McHorney and his team.

This year, the Cavs have had six different Chippewa Falls natives play for the team at one point or another, with three currently on the roster — Jake McIlquham, Kyle Cody and Brett Vavra.

The Cavs have also had Justin Jaquish, Mike Darley and Andy Davis play for them this year.

McIlquham, Cody and Davis played their high school baseball at McDonell, while Vavra, Jaquish and Darley went to Chi-Hi.

But even with that difference, McHorney said he doesn’t look at the Chippewa Falls baseball community like that.

“To me it’s not a school (pipeline), it’s a community pipeline,” McHorney said. “To me, it’s a Chippewa Falls pipeline and I’d like to keep that going.”

Cody has been pitching for the Cavs, while McIlquham has been playing first base and Vavra has been seeing time in the outfield.

Cody was drafted in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, but elected to stay with his initial plan of pitching for the University of Kentucky.

The six-foot, six-inch righthander has gone 3-1 in six appearances for the Cavs this year with a 2.73 earned run average and a team-leading 44 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. He said he’s been throwing more offspeed pitches during his starts in an effort to get ready for pitching in the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s been a blast,” Cody said. “The guys have been great and I’ve got to meet a lot of new guys and build some friendships and play a little baseball.”

McHorney learned of Cody’s interest in playing for the Cavs from Cody’s coach at McDonell, Eric Wedemeyer. Once McHorney heard Cody wanted to play for him, it was a no-brainer for the coach.

“Coach Wedemeyer gave me a call and asked him if I had a spot on the roster open,” McHorney said. “And I said, ‘what are you looking for?’ And he said I got Kyle Cody.”

Vavra is also in his first year for the Cavs and has found consistent playing time in the outfield.

In 41 games so far this year, the 2011 Chi-Hi alumnus has hit .313 with a pair of home runs and 18 runs batted in. He is also third on the team in total bases with 48.

He carried over to the summer what had been a successful spring for Vavra playing for UW-Stout. Vavra played in 35 games as a freshman for the Blue Devils, hitting .316 with 17 runs scored and 25 runs batted in.

“I had a pretty good season overall at Stout and I’m trying to improve my game, bring it to the Cavs and help them win too,” Vavra said.

Vavra said he’s also had other members of his family that have played for the Cavs, so he was proud to continue the tradition.

When he first joined the team, Vavra wasn’t sure if he had made the right choice. The outfield was crowded with players and he was worried he may get lost in the shuffle.

But as the year has gone on, Vavra has broke out from the pack.

“It’s been the best decision I’ve made,” Vavra said.

Both Cody and Vavra are in their first year with the Cavs, but McIlquham is the veteran of the bunch, as he is in his second season.

After playing sparingly last year, McIlquham has broken into the starting lineup in a big way in 2012. In 28 games this year, McIlquham is hitting .271 and posting a .393 on-base percentage while bringing a perfect fielding percentage to first base and playing what McHorney referred to as “rock solid” defense at first, a position he recently moved to after playing catcher.

“I feel like I’m having a lot more fun (in my second year) with everything,” McIlquham said. “More laid back.”

McIlquham and Davis were the first two McDonell players to play for McHorney on the Cavs.

After the Cavaliers season ends in August, McIlquham said he’ll have a few weeks to rest before heading back to go to school and play baseball at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The trio of Jaquish, Darley and Davis have also played for Eau Claire this year, but are not with the team right now.

Jaquish, a UW-Milwaukee pitcher, had a little tenderness in his elbow and his coaching staff with UW-Milwaukee felt it was best to shut him down for the summer.

Davis also had arm issues and has been shutdown, but he pitched for the Cavs last year and combined with Masahisa Morita to throw a six-inning no-hitter against Sparta last May.

Darley is easily the veteran of this group and of the team. He played 11 games this year for the Cavs, his fourth season with the team.

“I love Mike’s competitiveness,” McHorney said. “He’s a great kid, I just love what he brings to the field.”

It’s been an eclectic group of Chippewa Falls natives for McHorney and the Cavs in 2012, but it has also been a group that has contributed, each in their own way.

Story and photo by: Brandon Berg, The Chippewa Herald

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