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updated: 4/10/2014 11:21 PM

Pitching powers Mundelein's fast start

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Mundelein's 11-0 start sounds impressive, but it's only about half as good as it was just a few years ago.

"We started off 20-0," Mundelein coach Todd Parola reminisced. "It's nice to get out to that kind of start. You get the confidence going.

"I'm just a little surprised by how it's happened for us so far this year."

Parola says five of the Mustangs' wins include some very minimal offense, with 4 hits or less.

"Our pitchers are throwing strikes and we're playing pretty good defense and that has made up for (a lack of offense)," Parola said. "We just have to put the ball in play more and get more hits and more quality at bats."

Parola is looking for more production out of senior leaders Mike Metz, Derek Parola, Logan Reckert and Luke Adams. They were all major contributors last year at the plate.

"All of those guys are probably hitting better than .300 right now," Parola said. "But we know they can do that because they did it last year. There's always that normal progression you can expect from year to year and we're hoping for a little more out of each of them this year."

Who is it:

Usually, the ace at Mundelein is settled long before the start of the season.

This year, the Mustangs are more than 10 games in and the top spot in the pitching rotation is still up for grabs.

Dillon O'Donohue, Tyler Kozaritz, Mike Metz, Carter Naughton and Reese Dolan have all looked good.

"It's never been a question in the past who our ace would be," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said. "We've always known that pretty much the summer before. But we had a senior-dominated staff last year and some of our guys this year didn't get a lot of innings in, so we've had to spend some extra time really watching them.

"It would be nice for one guy to step up and be 'the guy.' But all of them have done a good job and I think that's a good thing. We have more pitching depth than normal this year."

Senior moments:

With their college selections made long ago, Grant seniors Ryan Noda and Simeon Lucas have been able to focus their attention on their teammates this season.

"They have done a great job with their leadership," Grant coach Dave Behm said of Noda and Lucas, who will be playing at Cincinnati and Illinois State next year, respectively. "They are relaxed and confident and they've done a great job with our younger guys."

Grant has a sophomore and junior in the starting lineup, but is looking seasoned so far. The Bulldogs are off to an 8-0 start.

"It's been a little bit of a surprise that we've come together this quickly," Behm said. "But we've been playing a pretty complete game. We've been pitching well, we're playing really good defense and we're hitting well, too. We can win games in a lot of different ways."

Choices, choices:

Part of Grant's pitching success is its depth.

Head coach Dave Behm has eight to 10 pitchers he can start with confidence.

Doug Murphey has the most experience and is filling the ace role while the Bulldogs are getting quality innings out of Ryan Noda, Tino Torres, Andrew Stone, Jacob Lewis and Chad Baron and Luke Lostroscio.

"We haven't had that kind of pitching depth before," Behm said. "I think it's nice not to have to ride three or four guys all season. That's tough for 17-year-old kids. It's nice to spread that work out a little bit."

On the move:

It's not a total reach for Freddie Landers to play shortstop.

The Grayslake Central senior grew up playing shortstop on his youth baseball teams.

But, for the last two years, Landers had been the starting catcher for the Rams. He had gotten comfortable there.

And yet, he gladly went to shortstop this season to help the Rams fill a void. He did the same thing when he first took over behind the plate.

"When Freddie came into our program, he was playing a lot of shortstop and he was pitching," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "But we had some pretty good shortstops back then, Austin Miller, Ryan Fontana, and we didn't need another one."

But the Rams needed a catcher and Landers adapted, and flourished.

"Shortstop wasn't a need in the past, but it is now, and we knew Freddie could fill that spot," Whalen said. "It's been fun to watch how he can excel at all these different tough positions. Catcher, shortstop, even pitcher. Not too many kids could do that. He just loves the game of baseball and he can do everything. He's also hitting over .350 as our No. 3 hitter. Freddie is so talented."

Landers will take his many talents to the College of Lake County next season. He has been recruited to play shortstop there.

New digs:

Batting averages at Vernon Hills could be on the rise soon.

The Cougars are about to break in their brand new batting cages at their varsity field. They'll run down the first base line and are due to be completed next week in time for a division game against Antioch.

"We're so excited about them," Vernon Hills coach Jay Czarnecki said of the new batting cages. "We weren't able to use our cages the last couple of years because they were broken. We couldn't hit before home games.

"The cages we're getting now are state-of-the-art. It's a double cage with turf and the whole area is blacktopped underneath so it won't get all muddy, and the mound is encased in concrete so that it can't fall apart. It's going to be so nice."

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