In celebration of the opening week of the high school baseball/softball season, here are 9 things on my mind:
1. It is nothing short of amazing that there were any games played the first half of last week due to the subfreezing overnight temperatures throughout suburban Chicago. Many games scheduled to start at 11 a.m. had to be rescheduled for the early afternoon to allow for the morning frost to dry out on the infield.
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Some went to extreme measures in an attempt to get the games played.
At Geneva, athletic director Jim Kafer and the school's grounds crew used a blow torch to get the base pegs into frozen holes while applying several bags of drying compound onto the dirt infield/dugouts prior to the Vikings' softball doubleheader against Wheaton North. The 10 a.m. start was pushed back to 12:30 p.m. but the games were played.
At St. Charles East, head baseball coach Len Asquini and varsity assistant Mark Foulkes spent numerous hours working on the field and the efforts paid off. The Saints were able to get 5 games in last week, including Tuesday's game originally slated to be played at West Aurora before being switched to St. Charles East as well as Saturday's add-on doubleheader against Sandburg.
Meanwhile, more games were moved from their original sites when Batavia played its baseball season opener against Wheaton Warrenville South and Friday's game with Naperville North Friday at Lee Pfund Field in Carol Stream.
Ah, springtime in northern Illinois.
2. Even Matt Holm couldn't recall the last time Batavia opened its baseball season with a 4-0 record.
And Holm has been coaching the Bulldogs for 21 years.
Led by starting pitchers Austin Shanahan, Luke Horton, Emilio Tenuta, and closer Micah Coffey, the Bulldogs allowed just 9 runs in victories over Wheaton Warrenville South, Willowbrook, Naperville North, and Marmion.
Thanks to timely hitting from catcher Dino Simoncelli, Robbie Bowman, Billy Zwick, Jeremy Schoessling, Laren Eustace, Dominic Battaglia, and Jeremy Schoessling, the Bulldogs are off and running this season.
Most of the early talk in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division has centered on defending champion St. Charles East, Geneva and St. Charles North but don't sleep on Batavia.
3. Beware of the Blackhawks.
It has taken just 4 games for West Aurora's baseball team to record one-third of last season's victory total (12-25). The Blackhawks improved their mark to 4-0 after Monday's 9-2 nonconference win over Bolingbrook.
Senior pitcher Ottavio Dattolo (2-0) senses a different feeling in the Blackhawks' locker room these days.
"Everybody has been real supportive of one another," said Dattolo. "For us to do that -- to play as a team more -- that's one thing we lacked last year. It's something we're working really hard at."
Junior left-handed hitting outfielder D.J. Varney, who belted a grand slam against Geneva Saturday, enjoyed a 5-RBI game against Bolingbrook.
Meanwhile, Jared Liebelt, Blake Salesky, and Tanner Reichardt combined for a no-hitter during the Blackhawks' 18-3 victory over East Aurora last Friday.
4. While staff aces Andy Honiotes and Jordan Touro haven't pitched much yet as coach Matt Hahn takes a cautious approach, Geneva's baseball team showed some resilience with its 8-run, seventh-inning rally during last Friday's 13-10 win over Marmion.
Freshman Nick Derr looks like he'll be an instant contributor and big part of the Vikings' offense and defense -- batting first and playing shortstop.
It was only one game but I came away impressed with Derr's infield footwork, above-average arm, speed, and look in the batter's box.
The kid can play.
5. St. Charles East (2-3) got off to somewhat of a slow offensive/defensive start but starting pitching may be a strength (allowed 3 runs in first 2 losses) with southpaw Nick Huskisson, hard-throwing right-hander Matt Starai, and senior Joe Hoscheit.
Starai struck out the first 5 batters he faced during the Saints' 7-3 win over Fremd last Wednesday.
Hoscheit began opening week hitting in the leadoff spot, followed by left-handed hitting third baseman Isaac Nimick, shortstop Nick Erickson, and designated hitter Brian Sobieski.
"We're going to get better," said Asquini.
6. Marmion entered the week with a 1-2 record but the victory was an impressive one -- a 2-1 win over state-ranked Joliet Catholic in its season opener.
The Cadets are young with just 5 seniors on the roster but can swing the bats, evidenced by their 13-hit attack against Geneva last Thursday. The top 8 hitters in the lineup all had at least 1 base hit, led by juniors Brady Roberts, Tyler Eberth, and Alex Troop.
"We know we have talent but they have to learn how to win games at the varsity level," said Marmion coach Dave Rakow. "We're not there yet. We're still trying to get a feel for who fits into what role."
7. Prairie Ridge outfielder Jordan Getzelman, who will play baseball at Missouri next year, is called "one of the best high school baseball players in the state" by his coach, Glen Pecoraro.
I've always been a firm believer in making sure all 9 starters can lay down a bunt when necessary. Getzelman proved my point when he laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in top of the sixth inning of a scoreless game with nobody out against St. Charles East last Thursday.
The Wolves eventually pushed across the game's first run and went on to win, 7-3.
"I have no hesitation bunting with him because he's got a chance to beat out any bunt with his speed," said Pecoraro. "He's a selfless kid."
8. Talk about a long doubleheader. Geneva and Wheaton North combined for 39 runs, 51 hits, and 13 errors during last Thursday's softball split.
Kirsten Searcy's clutch 2-out, 2-run home run in the top of the seventh pushed the Vikings past Wheaton North, 8-7, in the opener before the Falcons' Kat Meyer returned the favor with a walk-off 2-run home run in the bottom of the ninth as Wheaton North took the nightcap, 13-11.
9. It didn't take long to see a strange play occur.
With runners on first and second and 1 out, St. Charles East's Brian Sobieski launched a fly ball to deep left during its opening day game against West Aurora. The ball caromed off the top of the fence in left-center and was caught on a hop by Blackhawks center fielder D.J. Varney.
However, both Saints' baserunners remained at their stations and the Blackhawks eventually stepped on third and second for a bizarre inning-ending double play.
West Aurora went on to win, 1-0.
"We all kind of froze -- coaches, players and umpires," said Saints coach Len Asquini.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org