St. Charles East junior Mick Vyzral established the school single-season record for saves last week, earning his fifth in a 2-0 victory at Elgin.
“It’s awfully early to be setting records, especially when you only have  wins. … but that also tells you we’ve played an awful lot of close ballgames,” Saints coach Len Asquini said.
With deep pitching and a reliable defense, East figured any formula for success would revolve around getting victories the hard way.
Vyzral emerged as a bullpen candidate as the rotation came into clearer view in the preseason, and Asquini didn’t hesitate to throw him into a new role.
“He’s just got a good mix of everything. He’s not your typical kind of closer,” Asquini said. “He’s done very well with it right now, so we’re going to run with that.”
’Dogs winning by ‘whatever it takes’
Unselfish play has helped Batavia regain its edge after losing two of three against East late last month in an Upstate Eight Conference River Division series.
“Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes for the team,” senior catcher Dino Simoncelli said. “If it means putting down a bunt, even if you’re the best hitter on the team with a runner on first, you’ll do it just because that helps the team.”
The Bulldogs enter the stretch run in contention for the league title, which it shared with the Saints last season.
An early postseason exit in 2013 has bonded Batavia closer together as the team strives for a deep run this time around.
“We all like each other. We all get along. We play well together,” senior left-hander and first baseman Jacob Piechota said.
Marmion senior lefty Alex Troop struck out 16 Aurora Christian batters Wednesday, a feat coach Dave Rakow said is “kind of becoming par for the course” for the Michigan State recruit from Batavia.
Troop allowed one hit – to the first batter of the game – and also threw a one-hitter at St. Francis in mid-April, striking out nine.
“Definitely as the year progresses, you get more comfortable out there after being inside the entire winter,” Troop said. “Everything is starting to jell. Everything is going well, not only for myself, but we’re really starting to hit the ball and it’s all starting to come together toward the end of the season.”
Marmion improved to 10-0 in Suburban Christian Blue play Monday behind another Troop gem. He scattered 15 strikeouts in eight innings of an eventual 10-inning victory against Montini, mixing his changeup and offspeed pitches well.
– Kevin Druley, firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE GROOVE
Nick Stratman, Kaneland, Jr., P/OF
What he did: Stratman drove in three runs in Saturday’s victory against Prairie Ridge. On Thursday, he had one of the Knights’ two hits in a loss to Yorkville.
Alex Troop, Marmion, Sr., P
What he did: Dominated. In his past two starts covering 15 innings, Troop has limited Aurora Christian and Montini to two hits while striking out 31.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Kaneland will not go unbeaten in Northern Illinois Big 12 East play. After taking the series opener against Yorkville, the Knights stumbled in the next two games and also lost Monday to Sycamore. Kaneland relies on a mix of veterans and underclassmen, and will need the former group’s vocal leadership to help settle things down.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Lots more about the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race. St. Charles East and St. Charles North meet in a three-game series this week, while Batavia and Geneva kick off their series Saturday as the Vikings host a doubleheader. With weather cancellations catching up on the schedule, pitching takes on added importance in the stretch run.
COACH SLY SEZ ...
Kaneland, Aurora Central Catholic and St. Francis all have had success this spring, but being assigned to the same 3A regional at Plano assures nothing beyond a compelling first round of the postseason.
A similar knockout round took place in the boys basketball season, with Kaneland needing a buzzer-beater to win a regional on its home floor.
Walk-offs are the equivalent in baseball, right? Here’s to one or more of those deciding things in Reaper Country later this month.