In honor of the baseball/softball season, here are nine things that are on my mind:
1. Geneva's baseball team appears to be armed and dangerous this season. Led by starting pitcher Andy Honiotes, Jordan Touro, and Drew White, the Vikings may possess the most experienced mound corps in the area.
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And if they should need a late pick-me-up, coach Matt Hahn has the luxury to call on senior right-handed fireballer Matt Williams out of the bullpen.
Williams, a varsity starting pitcher the past 2 years when he hasn't been patrolling center field, will likely be used as the closer this season.
If last Saturday's game against West Aurora is any indication, the Vikings are going to run whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Matt Brandys had 3 of the Vikings' 5 stolen bases against a left-handed pitcher.
"We've got a nice combination of guys that can hit for a little bit of power and we've got some good baserunners," said Hahn. "We've got guys that understand situational hitting and are willing to give up their at-bats to move up runners."
How good are the Vikings?
Not as good as they might be in another month or two, according to their coach.
"I don't think we're at our peak where we want to be but six games into the season we're happy with where we're at," said Hahn. "For the most part, our hitting and pitching have been good. The defense we need to shore up a little."
2. I've seen my share of strange endings to baseball games but the last few moments of last weekend's West Aurora-Geneva contest were some of the most bizarre of my 28-year sportswriting career.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the seventh, West Aurora had runners on first and second with 2 out.
Leadoff hitter Adam Lipscomb steps to the plate and Geneva's Drew White throws an off-speed pitch that plunks Lipscomb in the side.
Lipscomb takes first base before the umpires confer and send him back to the batter's box, ruling that he didn't make an attempt to get out of the way of the ball.
Moments later, the home-plate umpire shouts out the count as 3-0 when it actually was 2-2.
When Lipscomb took the next pitch for a called strike, Geneva players began celebrating the team's 4-0 victory. West Aurora players, however, appeared a bit stunned by the news.
"He did flash a 3-0 count," Blackhawks coach John Reeves said of the plate umpire. "I saw him and was like, 'is that really the count?' By the time it all registered, it was too late. It all kind of fell apart there in the last couple minutes at least from an umpiring standpoint but they'll make mistakes just like everybody else."
3. St. Charles East junior Joe Hoscheit was one of the tougher outs to get toward the end of last season. Last week, Hoscheit started at catcher in a spring game for the first time in more than a year and didn't disappoint.
In addition to making a spectacular diving grab of a foul pop bunt, Hoscheit gunned down a would-be base stealer despite getting interfered with by the batter.
4. Youth is definitely being served on our local softball diamonds this spring.
A small sampling of the varsity rosters includes Batavia sophomore Erin Costigan and freshman Ryanne Rokos; Geneva sophomores Haley Orwig, Nicole White, and freshman Anna Geary; Kaneland freshman Paige Kuefler; St. Charles East sophomores Haley Beno, Sarah Collalti, Tess Hupe, and Kate Peterburs; and St. Charles North sophomores Mickey Goetz, Sabrina Rabin, and freshmen Abby Howlett and Kaitlyn Waslawski.
5. With a pair of sophomores -- Laren Eustace and Micah Coffey -- and juniors Danny Ritchason, Luke Horton, Billy Zwick, and Robbie Bowman in the starting lineup, Batavia's baseball team fields a relatively young group this spring.
Three of their first four games have been decided by a run, with the Bulldogs winning one of them in extra innings. All of them were low-scoring affairs (3-2, 2-1, and 3-2).
"We don't have a problem getting guys to second base," said coach Matt Holm.
6. Softball coaches love to have a few left-handed hitters in the lineup.
St. Charles East coach Kelly Horan's first 3 batters -- Lexi Perez, Sarah Collalti, and Olivia Lorenzini, all batted from the left side during the Saints' first win of the season last week over Burlington Central.
By week's end, the Saints owned a 4-2 record and could be a factor in what is shaping up to be a wide-open Upstate Eight Conference River Division race.
7. Win or lose, it has been nice of Mother Nature to cooperate the past couple weeks. With the exception of a day or two, conditions have been favorable as local teams have gotten in most, if not all, of their scheduled games -- a far cry from some springs.
I don't want to jinx it, so here's hoping for that trend to continue through mid-June.
8. Kansas may have lost the NCAA National Basketball Championship game to Kentucky Monday night but it did pocket its first Big 12 Conference baseball victory last weekend.
St. Charles East graduate Wes Benjamin earned the win, as the 18-year-old freshman pitcher recorded a collegiate career-high 8 strikeouts during the Jayhawks' 5-2 triumph over Texas Tech on March 31 in Lawrence.
The Jayhawks' No. 2 starter owns a 2-2 mark and 4.03 ERA, and will have an opportunity to face nationally ranked Texas and Texas A&M later in the season.
A week earlier, former St. Charles North standout hurler Zach Hirsch helped Nebraska take its first-ever Big 10 Conference 3-game series, beating Illinois 13-3 on March 25 in Lincoln.
Hirsch, a redshirt sophomore, returned to the Chicago area last weekend and pitched well, allowing 3 runs over 5 2/3 innings during a 6-1 loss to host Northwestern.
The southpaw is currently 3-2 with a 4.65 ERA for coach Darin Erstad's Cornhuskers.
9. Two weeks into the baseball season, I've noticed a few things while watching teams swing the new BBCOR bats.
First, the top hitters can still square it up and knock the ball out of the park. However, I'd be surprised if an area player finishes with more than 7 or 8 home runs this season.
And I notice that outfielders are playing a little shallower than previous years.
It also makes me think how even more dominant the area's top pitchers from the past like Casey Crosby, J.R. Carbonell, Cole Livermore, Zach Hirsch, Danny Jimenez, Brad Allen, Wes Benjamin, Brian Krolikowski, Jordan Coffey, Bobby Thorson, Tim Tarter, and others would be facing hitters without their composite "super-bats."
You can contact Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org.