Thousands of miles and a world away, thoughts of "The 20" never drift far from the members of Wheaton Academy's Project Lead team of students.
"The 20" represent the Haitian orphans sponsored by Project Lead over the past two years. The students have raised funds and awareness to benefit a church in Port-au-Prince that houses children and serves as a school.
The latest effort took place on Tuesday when Wheaton Academy's baseball team played Aurora Christian at Lee Pfund Stadium in Carol Stream. Proceeds from the event went to Project Lead's adopted Haitian church.
As a heartwarming tribute to the children, the back of Wheaton Academy's uniforms had the name of one of the Haitian orphans.
"We decided to support them in their effort and help them raise funds and awareness," said Wheaton Academy coach Brad Byrne. "It's a great testimony of what can be done by a group of students."
When the devastating 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, countless children were left homeless without parents. Wheaton Academy's Project Lead students began working through the World Orphans organization to support the children.
Since the earthquake, Project Lead students have made two January trips to Haiti to spend time with the children and help with various projects in the area. Senior baseball player Colin Copler is a current member of Project Lead.
"We've met our goal for food, shelter and medical needs," said Wheaton Academy assistant baseball coach and Project Lead sponsor Matt Browning. "Now our goal is to meet more sustainable needs."
To find out more about Project Lead's efforts in Haiti, go to wheatonacademy.org/the20.
Naperville Central coach Mike Stock thinks it's more than coincidence that the Redhawks are starting to heat up with the arrival of better spring weather.
Not that Naperville Central struggled while surging to a share of the DuPage Valley Conference lead, but the lack of continuity in the league schedule hurt the team's rhythm. The Redhawks' three-game sweep of Glenbard North earlier this week was the first time they were able to play a series right on schedule.
"I'm going by losses to keep track of everyone because I don't know who still has to make up games," Stock said. "You look at our best teams, and they've won conference. It's something we haven't done in a few years, so we want to get back there."
Settling into a pitching rotation has been the toughest thing for the Redhawks and other schools. By playing only a couple games a week, only a couple of pitchers get opportunities on the mound. For Naperville Central that means Jeff Schank, Jimmy Nashert and Cody Campbell have eaten the majority of innings.
Before the playoffs hit, though, Stock knows he'll need more pitching to step up. On Monday it was Zach Aranoff, Pat Maloney and Jason Wegner coming through to cap the sweep of Glenbard North.
With remaining DVC series against Naperville North and West Chicago, the Redhawks are hoping the weather cooperates and they can stay in a consistent rhythm of games.
"I definitely think there's a rhythm starting to be put together," Stock said. "The kids seem to be enjoying it more because up to now it's just been patchwork. It's been drudgery. This has been a fun time for us."
In the hunt:
Looking at its schedule in March, Downers Grove North knew it wouldn't take long to figure out if it'd be able to compete in the ultracompetitive West Suburban Silver.
The Trojans (16-3, 11-1) opened with a three-game series against defending Silver champion York, then met perennial state power Lyons Twp., last season's Class 4A runner-up.
Downers North surged to the top of the standings by sweeping York and taking two of three from the Lions. On the heels of sweeps over Proviso West and Glenbard West, the Trojans are on track to claim the Silver title.
"What I saw early on in the York series is that we weren't sharp on the mound and we were chasing from behind," said Trojans coach Chad Isaacson. "We showed a lot of push and resiliency and continued to bounce back. That carried over into the LaGrange series."
It won't get any easier for Downers North in its final Silver series against defending Class 4A champion Oak Park and Hinsdale Central's barrage of Division I pitching.
As much as Downers North has accomplished thus far, there's still a long way to go.
"We've built a lot of confidence, and win or lose they forget fast," Isaacson said. "We can't worry about anything but the game in front of us."
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit