Sophomore Jack Shields was voted the 2023 Arrowhead Conference Most Valuable Player, headlining a league-high seven Chargers who were named to the All-Arrowhead Conference Team.
Shields, a sophomore corner infielder, was named all-conference for the second straight season and joined Caileb Johnson (2022) and Jordan Chandler (2019) as the Chargers’ third conference MVP in the last five years. He was a unanimous MVP selection by the coaches of the five other Arrowhead schools.
Center fielder Mitch Ball and catcher Logan Van Heuklon accompanied Shields in being voted All-Arrowhead for the second time in as many seasons, and they were joined on this year’s squad by shortstop Bryce Brown, first baseman Frank Kelch and pitchers David Smith and Parker Stoneking.
A graduate of Peoria Notre Dame High School, Shields played in all 20 conference games for Sandburg and led the Chargers with 29 RBIs, 30 hits, 12 doubles, 16 extra-base hits and 54 total bases. He produced a .435 batting average, .494 on-base percentage, .783 slugging percentage and 1.276 OPS over 81 Arrowhead plate appearances. Shields also hit four home runs and was perfect in three steal attempts.
Ball, an East Peoria High School product, led Sandburg in conference play with a .442 average, .904 slugging percentage, 1.451 OPS, 29 runs and 11 steals (in 11 attempts) in 64 plate appearances over 15 games. He also hit six homers, drove in 21 and had 11 extra-base hits.
A Dunlap High School graduate, Van Heuklon was behind the plate for all but seven innings against Arrowhead opponents. He hit .367/.519/.567 in conference action, including a pair of home runs. Van Heuklon tied for the team lead with 14 walks and was second among Chargers with 21 runs. He cut down six attempted base-stealers and picked off two runners.
In his first year as a Charger, Brown, a Morton High School graduate and transfer from Heartland, hit .417/.500/.683 in 70 plate appearances spanning 18 Arrowhead games. His 25 hits and seven doubles were both second on the squad. The shortstop added three homers, 19 RBIs and was 8 for 8 in steal attempts.
Kelch, a Brimfield High School product, swatted a team-high nine homers in 77 plate appearances during conference play. He also was second among Chargers with a .787 slugging percentage, 22 RBIs and 48 total bases while tying Ball for second with 11 extra-base hits. Kelch hit .311, posted a .429 OPB and was perfect in four steal attempts.
Smith stepped right in as Sandburg’s ace in his freshman season out of Tremont High School, going a perfect 4-0 in four Arrowhead appearances (all starts). The righthander posted a 1.48 ERA and struck out a team-high 34 batters in 23 2/3 innings.
A lefty from Abingdon-Avon High School, Stoneking did not allow a run in 14 innings of work against league foes. He went 3-0 in three appearances (two starts), struck out 12, walked two, held batters to a .154 average and had a 0.71 WHIP.
2023 ALL-ARROWHEAD CONFERENCE BASEBALL TEAM
MVP — Jack Shields (Sandburg)
Infielders — Jack Shields (Sandburg), Chase Chappell (Sauk Valley), Felix Polanco (Highland), Bryce Brown (Sandburg), Ethan Bowers (Black Hawk)
Designated Hitter — Frank Kelch (Sandburg)
Outfielders — Mitch Ball (Sandburg), Christian Hobbs (Black Hawk), Griffin Brown (Black Hawk), Hudson Deal (Sauk Valley)
Catchers — Tyler Jacobsen (Kishwaukee), Logan Van Heuklon (Sandburg)
Pitchers — Quinn Hoftender (Black Hawk), David Smith (Sandburg), Jack Savitch (Black Hawk), Parker Stoneking (Sandburg), Zach Diver (Sauk Valley).