Unique two-sport path leads Loeger, Conant to unprecedented heights


Bryce Loeger made a huge splash this year.

The senior was dominant on the dirt and in the water this year for Conant.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander, who currently throws in the upper 80s, was nearly unbeatable all season. He won a school-record 11 games this season while leading his team to the Class 4A state championship game.

Loeger struck out 103 batters and walked just 26 in 77 innings pitched. He had an ERA of 0.91 and a WHIP of a sparkling 0.94.

In the state title game, Loeger pitched well. But he failed to get out of two jams thanks to defensive errors and picked up the loss.

But like a true captain of the Conant baseball team, Loeger did not pass off blame.

“Everyone makes errors,” Loeger said. “But what we did best is that we don’t point fingers. We pick each other up.”

Players play and leaders lead. And for all of that, Loeger is the captain of the Daily Herald’s 2024 Cook All-Area baseball team.

Loeger’s coach Derek Fivelson said Loeger has been a key ingredient on the Conant varsity since Loeger’s sophomore year.

“He’s quite the kid,” Fivelson said. “He is just about as an impressive high school student that could walk into your building. Not only athletically into sports but also academically. It’s just a complete package.”

Dartmouth University would agree. That’s where Loeger will play next season. He also had offers from Richmond, Fordham, Murray State, Valparaiso and Akron as well as a number of DII and DIII schools.

Fivelson has been the head coach at Conant for the last 12 seasons. He says Loeger has been the team’s top pitcher for the last three seasons accumulating a career record of 23-6, which is a school-record for victories.

“You know, he’s been our ace for the last three years and he’s pitched in our biggest games,” Fivelson said “He came up short a couple times in his sophomore year and lost just once last year. He just continues to want the ball in big games.”

Loeger led the Cougars to their first MSL title since 1999. The team followed with a regional title and their first sectional and supersectional wins, taking them to the state championship game.

Fivelson said Loeger’s ability to throw four different pitches is why, until the state title game, Loeger never allowed more than two runs in a game all season.

“As long as our team played defense behind him, they knew that just a couple runs were enough,” Fivelson said. “Because of ability to throw four pitches for a strike in any count he wants, it is awfully difficult for a high school hitter and then multiple high school hitters in a lineup to string together hits against him.”

Loeger has flip turned his way in a different direction than most baseball pitchers with competitive swimming.

He has been swimming since he was five. And he still swims competitively, competing at nationals and for his high school.

Loeger was a member of the Conant varsity swim team for four seasons and was a captain for that entire stint. He also qualified for state all four seasons, and he finished sixth in the state this year in the 50-yard freestyle in 20.54.

Loeger could have qualified for state in other individual events but opted to be part of his team’s relays.

“I chose to relay with my team rather than swimming in any other individual events,” Loeger said. “It was more important to me to take more people to state.”

Loeger’s unselfishness led the Cougars to qualify three relay teams to the state meet. All three of those squads qualified through the prelims on Friday to Saturday’s finals.

Loeger led the 200- medley relay to a 12th-place finish. In that event, Loeger sawm the backstroke, which is the opening leg. He posted the third fastest time in 22.91 seconds.

The 200-freestyle relay team took 14th, and the 400-freestyle relay was 15th as the Cougars tied for 21st in the state.

“I want the best for my team,” Loeger said. “Because if one guy is doing great, that’s fine. But to win a baseball game you need nine guys to perform well. So, I think it’s bigger, especially in a swimming pool to, you know, relate to it for people. I think it’s best to work with the guys around you and you know. If you help the team, you are really helping yourself even more.”

Loeger says that swimming is the main reason why he is so healthy on the mound. When nearly all other pitchers are throwing bullpens in November through March, Loeger is in the pool training.

“I split it in half year nearly in half with baseball and swimming,” Loeger said. “But in terms of pitching, swimming complements throwing. It works like a little stabilizer of my muscles and everything. So even though I’m not throwing a ball all the time, I am getting stronger. I don’t feel I have that repetitive motion of throwing and I am getting stronger by being in the pool. I think that played a huge role in my success.”

Pitching and swimming. Loeger says they go hand in hand or stroke for stroke.

They have made him a winner on the mound and in the pool.

 
Conant pitcher Bryce Loeger holds catcher Connor Kehoe in the air after the battery defeated Buffalo Grove with a one-hitter in the MSL baseball championship game at Buffalo Grove High School on Friday, May 17, 2024.
John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com
 
Conant pitcher Bryce Loeger celebrates with catcher Jacob Szpiganowicz as the Cougars defeat Glenbrook North 6-1 during the Class 4A baseball supersectional at Wintrust Field on Monday, June 3, 2024 in Schaumburg.
Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com
 
Conant’s Bryce Loeger pitches against Libertyville in the Class 4A Stevenson baseball sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in Lincolnshire.
John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com
 
Conant players, from left, Franklin Kirchner, Bryce Loeger and Jake Parpet hold the second-place trophy following their 4-1 loss to Providence during the Class 4A state baseball championship game at Duly Health and Care Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024 in Joliet.
Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com



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