DuPage baseball notes: DVC title up for grabs

Naperville North is riding a three-game winning streak into the final two weeks of the baseball regular season.

The Huskies (12-7-1, 7-5 DuPage Valley Conference) lost three in a row to conference rival Naperville Central but responded with a three-game sweep over Metea Valley to build momentum for an upcoming three-game set against Waubonsie Valley this week.

"Our kids have come together," Naperville North coach Jim Chiappetta said. "Our returnees, especially the seniors, have really welcomed in our younger players and helped them truly understand our expectations. Our offensive production has been solid and consistent. Our young pitching is coming together and getting better with experience."

The Huskies, who are batting .365 as a team, have been led by senior shortstop Tanner Mally, sophomore catcher Zach Bava and senior outfielder Cole Clemens.

Bava is hitting .477 with 7 doubles, 3 home runs and 22 RBI, with Clemens batting .439 with 6 doubles, a triple and a home run and 18 RBI. Mally has batted .477 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, scored 29 runs, stole 8 bases and driven in 18 runs.

"They've been staples in our lineup all season," Chiapetta said. "Their leadership and production has been excellent. Senior captain Peyton Seiple has also really stepped up over the past few weeks with some timely hits and big plays at third base. Zak Sumser and Max Steele have both impressed in each of their last three starts."

Wildcats aiming for a late push:

Neuqua Valley heads into the home stretch of the regular season looking to ride its solid pitching staff to a memorable finish.

The Wildcats (13-9-1, 7-5 DVC) start a key three-game league series against DeKalb this week.

"Our starting pitching has been solid for the most part," Neuqua Valley coach James Thornton said. "We have been competitive in most games. In some of the close losses, we have either had the tying run or runs on base or at the plate, so we have had our chances to pull out victories."

Senior Mark Mennecke leads the team in innings (32 2/3), strikeouts (43) and wins (4), while owning a 1.93 ERA and batting .359 with 23 hits. Senior Tommy Kuban is second on the team with a .329 average and has a 2.88 ERA with a 2-1 record on the mound. Andrew Gould is batting .284 with 2 home runs and 13 RBIs and Josh Wenz is hitting .320.

"Mark Mennecke and Tommy Kuban has been doing it all for us this year," Thornton said. "Junior Andrew Gould has been solid defensively, allowing us to move players around to solidify our defense. Josh Wenz is getting hot at the right time. We just need to get healthy and be more consistent with our execution offensively. We also need to learn how to put teams away."

Knights closing in on .500:

IC Catholic Prep is picking a good time of the season to start a late-season push.

The Knights (13-14, 8-4) have won five in a row to rebound from a stretch where they lost seven out of eight games.

"We're a team that is surging and peaking as we go into the final week of the regular season," IC Catholic Prep assistant coach David Rivera said. "We learned a lot from our losses…We're currently playing good baseball with solid wins."

The Knights have received solid contributions from several of their players, namely ace pitcher Jacob Gunther, senior shortstop Trey Manchester, junior third baseman/catcher Joseph Michels and junior centerfielder Dennis Mandala.

Gunter (5-2) has a 3.37 ERA, while Manchester is batting .420 with 19 RBI and 23 runs scored in 24 games played. Michels, batting in the cleanup slot, is hitting .446 with 20 RBI and Mandala has a .423 batting average with 8 doubles, 4 triples and 2 home runs.

"Jacob is a veteran pitcher who loves to compete and always wants the ball and always gives us a chance to win," Rivera said. "Trey has been our best and most consistent player on the field all season. Joseph has been playing either third base or behind the plate and been playing both positions at a very high level. Dennis is a great leadoff man. As a centerfielder, he has great speed gap to gap, a strong accurate arm and leads by example every way."

The Knights are currently in a position to tie or win the conference with some help, Rivera said.

"We have beaten or played teams in our regional, which is very tough," he said. "We expect to have a chance to win our regional if we continue to play good baseball."

Timothy Christian update:

Entering the second week of May, Timothy Christian is one of the hottest baseball teams in DuPage County. The Trojans (13-12, 7-3 Metro Suburban Conference) have turned the tide in their season by winning 10 of their last 12 games to sit in first place in the conference.

"We started off slow with an extremely tough schedule but we never gave up our ourselves," Timothy Christian coach Frank Romano said. "We are locked in heading into the postseason."

At the front of the Trojans' resurgence has been senior Donald Tober, who plays third base, catches and pitches.

"Donald has been dominating for us again all year," Romano said. "With a fastball that sits in the low 90s, we can beat anyone when he's on the mound. His bat has also been hot lately with two home runs in our last conference series."

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