After more than 30 years in baseball, Lake Zurich coach Gary Simon figured he had seen it all.
But this has been a season of firsts for him, and for the Bears, who are used to being one of the better teams in Lake County.
But so far, Lake Zurich has suffered through about as many injuries and personnel setbacks as game cancellations due to inclement weather, of which there have been plenty of those. The inconsistencies in the lineup have led to a rough start. The Bears were just 2-10 as of Thursday.
"Well, in 33 years, I've never seen the weather this bad, and we've also been hit with a ton of problems," Simon said. "It's been a tough year so far. The injuries have been really tough on our pitching. We're just getting to the point where we're playing at full strength."
Star senior left-hander Austin Foote, who struck out 12 batters last week against Mundelein and will be playing at Indiana next year, has managed to stay healthy and on a regular rotation. But after him, the Bears have been in flux. No. 2 pitcher Tanner Kiser returned last week from an elbow injury. He was an all-conference selection last year and was expected to log a lot of innings this season.
Meanwhile, the Bears' No. 3 pitcher was forced to sit out the first third of the season for disciplinary issues and is just now making his way back into the fold.
Other players have also had their troubles, including relievers Derek Kornfeind, who has had elbow soreness, and Mike Shastany, who has a sore arm. Colton Wagner, who was projected to get starts at catcher, tore his ACL during football and can't play while outfielder Ian Ryan broke his ankle last week sliding into second base.
Two other position players who start have missed time recently due to a disciplinary suspension.
"The kids have been able to stay upbeat because they know we're going to be getting most of our guys back very soon," Simon said. "We've also shown that we can still hit the ball. If we could just get some momentum, if the weather would ever cooperate, we could put some wins together. We're just now getting back to full strength."
On Monday, with most of its players back and active, Lake Zurich got a big 16-10 over Palatine.
"That was a great game for us," Simon said. "Our pitching showed up and we kind of felt like we were able to get rolling a little bit. We've got to keep that up."
What a mess:
The rains made for an awkward situation last week at Lake Zurich.
Chalk this up to another thing that Gary Simon had never seen in his 30-plus-year coaching career until now.
He's canceled many home games before due to bad weather, but not ever after the visiting team had already arrived. Simon had to send Libertyville home on Tuesday, shortly after its arrival for a North Suburban Conference Lake Division contest.
"Our infield was fine and we were under the impression that our outfield was OK, too," Simon said. "It looked fine and we thought it had been checked out, but I guess it hadn't and it was a soggy mess out there.
"I know the kids wanted to play and were really disappointed, but the field was just unplayable. Our infield does OK with water, but our outfield is like a dumping ground for where all the water from the football field goes. This weather has been terrible for it."
When Mundelein's game at Warren got cancelled on Wednesday and there was no room indoors at school to hold a practice, Plan C came into play.
The Mustangs hopped on a bus, drove to Milwaukee and took in a Brewers game. The Brewers defeated the San Francisco Giants, 4-3.
"It was pretty fun to go up there," Mundelein ace pitcher Mitch Schulewitz said. "It kind of came out of nowhere, but it was nice. Coach (Todd Parola) came into the locker room and was like, 'We can't play, we can't practice, we're going to a Brewers game.'"Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.