Hit the road and the ball
St. Charles North and Burlington Central ventured south for spring break last week, but each team’s offense did anything but.
A hot core of hitters fueled North’s 5-1 run to second place at the Aaron Schuh memorial tournament in Dyersburg, Tenn., with Nick Drawant (.467), Joe Kuczek (.467) and Jack Dennis (.400) wielding some of the hotter bats.
Playing at the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Central averaged seven runs in four games. The Rockets scored less than five runs just once.
“We had one game where we ran into a good pitcher, real good pitcher, from Powell County (Ky.),” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said, “but yeah, we hit pretty well all week.”
Pitching propels ‘Dogs
Batavia has derived much of its swagger from its pitching during a 4-1 start.
“Even before our first game, I knew our pitching staff was going to be one of the best in the state,” senior left-hander Jacob Piechota said. “We’re a confident pitching staff and have great pitching coach who played in the [minors], so we jut have a great pitching program.”
Batavia resident Bob Polinsky, an assistant to longtime head coach Matt Holm, pitched in the Yankees and White Sox organizations. His career included four Triple-A seasons, as he went 37-42 with a 3.62 ERA from 1973 to 1979.
In addition to Piechota, a Western Michigan recruit who won two games last week, the Bulldogs tout some promising new arms alongside their veteran talent. Junior left-hander Evan Acosta pitched four strong innings in his first varsity start, a 2-1 win against Kaneland on March 31.
The Bulldogs played their first four games at the artificial turf confines of Wheaton College’s Pfund Stadium, but don’t expect the staff’s pitch-to-contact credo to change as play shifts back to natural grass.
“[Turf] is probably a lot smoother and there are a lot less bad hops, but we have a great defense overall,” Piechota said. “They would make the plays whether they’re on dirt or on turf.”
St. Francis senior Jason Sullivan finds himself in a torrid state no matter where the Spartans are playing.
On Monday, he limited Aurora Christian to three hits in a five-inning complete game in the Spartans’ Suburban Christian Conference opener. Highlights from last week’s spring break trip to Orlando, Fla., included a grand slam against Shiocton (Wis.).
“He’s been our best player,” St. Francis coach Rich Janor said, “so he’s started of the season well.”
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
IN THE GROOVE
Alex Troop (Sr.) and Danny Bicknell (Sr.), Marmion, pitchers
What they did: Troop (five innings) and Bicknell (two) combined on a no-hitter in Monday’s 6-1 victory against visiting Wheaton Academy. Troop, a Michigan State recruit from Batavia, struck out 10. The gem continued a sterling recent history for Marmion pitchers, including a combined perfect game from Tyler Friel, Tim Tarter, Mark Peters, Will Sterne and Jack Gunderson in 2010. Current Cadets pitching coach Tim Milroy threw a no-hitter in 2008. Rival Aurora Central Catholic was the opponent both times.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Kaneland can hang against top competition. Playing at the University of Cincinnati on their spring break trip Friday, the Knights led perennial Ohio power Archbishop Moeller, 4-1, after three innings before scuffling down the stretch and losing, 8-4. Curtus Thorson contributed two hits and an RBI for Kaneland.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which side of the Upstate Eight Conference gets the better of early-season crossovers. Marquee matchups include St. Charles East at South Elgin and Batavia at Waubonsie Valley – both Thursday – and Neuqua Valley’s visit to St. Charles North on Friday.
COACH SLY SEZ
Could this be it? A break in the weather?
Things are looking like they may snap into spring for the balance of the week – before promptly snapping back to begin next week – but teams will take whatever window that emerges.
Sly knows that teams realize this is the drill every season. But here’s hoping games don’t get too crammed once we get into May. That would be a heck of a challenge for pitching staffs to shoulder.