Rend Lake College has filled a temporary void in its coaching ranks with an all-star lineup of summer instructors in its new Hitting Zone baseball/softball complex.
When summer hours begin the week of June 9-14 - 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays - there will be an obvious emphasis on pitching with the following staff providing lessons in all phases of the game:
* Former Waltonville High School Head Coach Alex Wellmaker is coordinating activities this summer in The Hitting Zone, a facility which opened last fall and is dedicated to enhancing the talents of area players . Wellmaker has spent the last three years as an assistant coach with the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale women’s basketball program after helping with the Lady Warriors for three years prior to that.
* Pitcher Rick Cremer, former Southern Illinoisan "Player of the Year" and First-Team All-Stater. Cremer spent five seasons in the New York Yankees organization from 1996-2000.
* Pitcher Kendra Kosco, who recently completed a stellar career that included two seasons as the ace of the Lady Warrior staff and two more as a record-setting hurler for NCAA Division I University of Tennessee at Martin.
* Danny Czerwinski, a Rend Lake College grad who assisted Wellmaker at Waltonville from 1996-98.
* Christopher product Matt Whitlow, who played at Mid-Continent College and RLC and has experience teaching at The Hitting Zone as well as Future Swings in Marion.
"We could not be more pleased with the staff we have been able to put together while the search for a permanent coach moves forward," commented Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern. "I know parents and players alike should be impressed with the caliber of expertise and instruction prospects will receive from these individuals." Kern is the father of three sons who played college baseball, one of whom pitched professionally.
In a recent letter to Rend Lake College administrators, a scout for the Minnesota Twins praised the college’s new facility. "What a beautiful place," he wrote. "It is without question one of the better indoor facilities in the Midwest. It should provide excellent opportunities for not only the baseball and softball teams, but for the growing community around Rend Lake as well."
Both Cremer and Kosco will be available for specialized pitching instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon, and additional hours by arrangement. Prospects should call The Hitting Zone (437-5321, Ext. 1279) or drop be the facility to set up appointment times.
Cremer is a graduate of Frankfort Community High School and played one season for John A. Logan College. He earned Third-Team All-America honors during his prep career before becoming a 34th Round draft pick by the Yankees. In 1998, Cremer was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star squad.
The past two springs he returned to help the West Frankfort Redbirds as an assistant baseball coach.
Kosco, a product of the Herrin High School pitching factory, will graduate in the fall from UT-Martin, where she was the Intercollegiate Athletics Softball Scholar-Athlete Award recipient her senior year and a two-time NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete Collegiate Award-winner.
On the field, she earned Ohio Valley Conference "Pitcher of the Week" honors once each season, team "Most Valuable Player" distinction in 2002 and Second-Team All-OVC and team "Most Outstanding Pitcher" both seasons. She departs with school records for number of wins in a season, career ERA, season and career strikeouts and season and career shutouts.
Kosco earned All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference honors as a freshman after leading her team to a share of the league title. She capped her sophomore year by earning All-Region XXIV Tournament status after throwing three shutouts, including a no-hitter and a one-hitter, as the Lady Warriors finished third. She concluded her Juco career with a record of 42-23 and an overall ERA of 1.75.
Mt. Vernon-native Wellmaker has coached at the junior high, high school, junior college and Division I four-year levels. His degree is in Physical Education and Special Education, and he is a lifelong baseball fan, as his extensive card collection would reveal.
He got his start at Rend Lake College as a student assistant in 1984-85 under Head Coach Kirk Champion, now the Triple-A Pitching Coach for the Chicago White Sox, and Assistant Paul Evans, who has been the Pitching Coach for Southwest Missouri State’s perennial NCAA contenders the past 15 years. Wellmaker also has coached American Legion and Colt League teams.
Czerwinski currently is a Special Ed teacher for the Woodlawn Consolidated Community District #4 (K-2) and holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University. He previously assisted at Waltonville Junior High before joining Wellmaker at his prep alma mater.
Whitlow was a two-time All-Southern Illinois Coaches Association All-South and All-Black Diamond Conference pick the last two seasons of a four-year varsity career at CHS.