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updated: 4/3/2014 5:40 PM

Judson baseball team fights through adversity

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By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent

Injuries can be an extremely unkind part of sports.

In the case of the Judson University baseball team, unkindness has be thrown to the curb and replaced with optimism and results.

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The Eagles have weathered the loss of three key roster components and stood at 19-12 overall and 5-2 in the early stages of CCIW play through midweek. Judson recently swept its home conference doubleheader opener against Olivet Nazarene.

"We've had a little more adversity than in recent years," said Judson coach Rich Benjamin. "We've had three season-ending injuries, but we've had some young guys step up. We're starting to play like a well-rounded team."

Judson is without the services of right-handed pitchers Lucas Keller (Prairie Ridge) and Ryan Kendall (Hemet, Calif.). Benjamin said Keller throws in the 86-89 MPH range, while Keller is in the 88-92 range. Kendall is a starting pitcher, while Keller is a relief pitcher.

"Both guys would have helped us," the coach said.

Junior second baseman Billy Wright (Crystal Lake South) also is out for the year after suffering a broken ankle.

"That was tough to lose him," said Benjamin. "Two years ago he led us in hitting. But we've had some other players step up and help overcome these injuries."

Benjamin noted closer Jordan Pemble (Romeoville) recently spot-started in a conference game and threw "six great innings." Pemble is 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 11 appearances.

Ambidextrous sophomore pitcher Ryan Perez (Westminster Christian), who can throw between 88-92 MPH from the right side and hits as high as 94 from the left side, also has been throwing well. He's a team-best 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA (13 games). Perez has 43 strikeouts in 48⅓ innings.

"He can touch the mound twice a week for us, once from the left side and once from the right," said Benjamin.

Junior Andrew Bergmann (Glenbard North) recently completed a nine-inning game for Judson in just 85 minutes. Bergmann is 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA and has 5 complete games.

"He's a low-pitch guy," said Benjamin.

Sophomore Matt Kramer (Plainfield East) has moved into the conference rotation for Judson and has logged some strong starts, Benjamin noted. Kramer is 2-1with a 3.71 ERA and 2 complete games.

As far as the second-base situation, Freshman Josh Hauser (Belvidere) gives the Eagles a strong glove in the field, while Dom Demicco (Lake Zurich) and junior Chris Simon (Clemente H.S.) also provide viability at the position.

"Hauser is a young player who is developing and we also have depth off the bench at that position," said Benjamin.

Benjamin said the team is far from a state of hanging its collective heads in light of the injuries.

"I'm very happy with this group," he said. "They play the game in front of them. They aren't getting down on themselves. They play the game the right way and prepare the right way. It's a very process-oriented group. If a guy goes down or a guy isn't performing well, it's next man up. The guys understand that and the guys are developing and giving us better at-bats. It's nice to see this process take place. The younger guys are taking on bigger roles. It's given us more depth and it's given us a chance to be compete through adversity. Our starting pitching is strong, our lineup is showing depth and we're starting to find our stride on defense. We are becoming a complete team."

Senior Josh Raymond (Mahomet-Seymour) leads the team in hitting at .427 (44 hits, 28 RBI, .631 slugging). Senior Tony Ruggiero (Broadview Heights, Ohio) is hitting .353 (12 doubles, 3 homers, 24 RBI, .600 slugging), while junior Cameron Balough (Santee, Calif.) is at .348 (39 hits, 11 doubles) and sophomore Mark DeYoung (Plainfield Central) is hitting .336 (39 hits, team-best 32 RBI).

Judson softball: The Judson softball team was 7-16 overall and 3-16 in CCAC action through midweek.

Sophomore Maddie Smith (Granger, Ind.) was leading the team in hitting at .368 (26 hits, 18 runs scored, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 20 RBI). Jacobs graduate Nicky Chapa was second at .348. The freshman infielder has 24 hits (6 doubles) to go with 14 runs scored and 11 RBI.

College of DuPage transfer Shannon Nevins (Warrenville resident) is hitting. 325 with 27 hits, 14 runs scored and 7 stolen bases. Northern Illinois University transfer Murielle Vansech is hitting .310 with 22 hits, 20 runs scored, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers and 18 RBI. She has a .620 slugging percentage to go with 9 stolen bases.

Jacobs alum Katie Kirker (sophomore) shares the pitching duties with Pleasant Prairie, Wis., native Brianna Tennyson. Kirker has 3 wins, 7 complete games and has fanned 32 in 54⅓ innings. Tennyson has 4 wins, 12 complete games, 2 shutouts and has 69 strikeouts in 80 innings. Kirker also has a .304 batting average.

ECC baseball: The Spartans were 4-7 overall through midweek and 2-2 in Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference action after splitting doubleheaders with Moraine Valley and College of Lake County.

According to the NJCAA website, Kurt Barbeau (St. Charles North) was leading the team through 9 games with 9 hits. Jake Buhmann (South Elgin) has 8 hits (4 doubles, 4 RBI). Brian Sobieski (St. Charles East) also has 8 hits and has scored 7 runs. Mike Murphy (South Elgin) has 7 hits (3 doubles). Jake Weede, a freshman from Geneva High School, also has 7 hits.

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