For Lake Park's baseball team to have a successful season, several moving parts have to come together.
So far, so good.
With Tuesday's 1-0 win over St. Charles North, the Lancers upped their record to 8-1, including 4-1 in the Upstate Eight Conference. Christian Taugner's 1-hitter with 14 strikeouts epitomizes what's making Lake Park tick this season.
The senior All-Area pitcher is 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 31 strikeouts against 2 walks in 17 innings. Beyond the expected excellence of Taugner, the Lancers also are enjoying the resurgence of Mark Pall, 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA, and Eric Vatch, who boasts a UEC win over Streamwood and a save against Buffalo Grove.
Throw in a 2-0 mark for junior Rhett Rapshus and another win and save for junior A.J. Colantonio, and it's easy to see why Lake Park has the mound talent to compete for the UEC Valley title.
"We needed someone to step up and complement Christian, and we've had that," said Lake Park coach Dan Colucci. "We're not crushing the ball but we've been getting good pitching, good defense and timely hits. We just need to keep it up."
The Lancers are hitting a cumulative .297 as a team. But with a steady defense and a sub-2.00 team ERA, they're showing how tough they are to beat.
The true test begins next week with the start of UEC Valley play. Lake Park faces three-game series against Bartlett and powerful Neuqua Valley.
With this type of fast start, the Lancers won't be sneaking up on anyone.
"When you get off to a good start like this, the whole team just starts to get a bunch of confidence," Colucci said. "But now they need to focus even more because the bull's-eye is on them."
Hit when you can:
Playing in the brutally tough West Suburban Silver doesn't allow for much stat padding at the plate.
In other words don't expect Glenbard West to light up the scoreboard this season.
"We've seen some unbelievable pitching," Hilltoppers coach Brian Wojtun said of Silver series against Oak Park and Hinsdale Central. "We've seen four Division I pitchers, and a fifth that throws 87. I don't know if there's too many teams that have seen that caliber of pitching so far."
To the Hilltoppers' credit, they took two of three from Hinsdale Central while scoring 15 runs in their two wins. The team still has a mediocre cumulative batting average of .277, but Glenbard West is getting the hitting it needs so far.
"They're doing a good job," Wojtun said. "It's tough, but it is what it is."
Luke Domask, with a .484 average, and Grant Greeno, hitting .458, seem to be thriving against the tough pitching. It'll only get tougher down the road with three-game series looming against York and Lyons Twp.
Considering the pitching they'll face, it'd be wise to take the Hilltoppers' hitting stats with a grain of salt.
"They're competitors," Wojtun said. "As a coach you try to be realistic and make them realize these are Division I pitchers for a reason. They're exceptional athletes on the mound.
"But if you don't do well as a competitor, you're not happy," he said. "They don't make excuses about how tough the pitching is. If they don't get a hit, they keep trying to find ways to improve their hitting. They don't care how good the pitching is, they have to find a way to get the ball in play."
Trust on the mound:
When Neuqua Valley senior pitcher Cody Coll took the mound for Friday's Upstate Eight Conference game against St. Charles North, his command was uncharacteristically off a bit in the first couple of innings.
No worries, though. At least not in the mind of Wildcats coach Robin Renner.
If there's one thing Renner has learned during Coll's three years as a varsity pitcher, it's not to worry about the composure of the Western Kentucky-bound right-hander.
"If it was any other pitcher we had, I'd be worried," Renner said. "But Cody is such a good baseball player, I knew I didn't have to say anything to him. I knew he would adjust. He's one of the best baseball players I've ever coached in terms of understanding the game and adjustments that need to be made."
Part of the reason for Coll's early struggles was the reason for the team's success. The Wildcats scored 4 runs in the first and second inning, and while the early 8-0 lead was much appreciated, Coll sat too long in between innings.
Coll eventually settled down. He allowed 3 hits and struck out six in the five-inning victory.
He also had 2 hits at the plate and reached base three times.
"First base, on the mound, he knows the game," Renner said. "He's a baseball player."
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