Koszewski, Sclafani hope to pick up where they left off
Heading into last baseball season, Michael Koszewski and Michael Sclafani weren't exactly household names.
Then Montini stormed into Joliet and shocked its way to the Class 3A title, the first in program history.
"We knew we were the underdog," Sclafani said. "That gave us this deeper passion to get those wins because they'd be that much more special."
Sclafani, Koszewski and a bunch more talent returns as the Broncos try to build upon that success in 2020. If, that is, a spring season suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic is allowed to resume.
While the players admit it's a little surreal coming back after an off-season of celebration -- and even more surreal now that they're not allowed to practice or play games until the suspension is lifted -- they're ready for another challenge.
"We kind of just go out there, work hard, do what we've got to do," Sclafani said. "And hopefully we get good results."
Last season Koszewski and Sclafani were junior pitchers who wowed the field with complete-game victories in the semifinals and the Broncos' 6-3 win over St. Laurence in the title game. That came on the heels of a romp through the bracket that featured five five-inning games including the sectional final and supersectional.
"We just stuck to our game and played as a team," Koszewski said. "We knew we'd have (Sclafani) throughout the season, and I kind of came on late in the season. Right after my last start of the regular season the coaches talked to us and said, 'It's you and Scalf. Be ready. Let's go.' I was ready to rise to the occasion."
Montini coach Rich Janor purposely kept their workload light early in the season so the duo would be strong for the playoff run. If the season resumes, once again Koszewski and Sclafani won't need to carry the load on the mound with Ralph Ortiz, Max Kasallis, Tyler Atkins and others in the fold.
Even though the Broncos already achieved the pinnacle of success, Janor believes this season is just as important.
"It's definitely a different vibe this year, and I think the guys have embraced the fact that we're going to have a bull's-eye on our chest," Janor said. "We're focusing on cleaning the slate and not being complacent. We don't want to rest on the laurels of past seasons. We want to build a tradition of success."
Koszewski, committed to Cincinnati, went 6-2 last year with a 2.98 ERA while driving in 17 runs at the plate. Lewis University-bound Sclafani struck out 79 in 62 innings and posted a 2.13 ERA. He hit .396 with 37 RBI.
The Broncos return seven starters from the state championship game lineup, including other standouts like outfielder Antoine Harris, second baseman Nate Kremkow and sophomore Estevan Moreno, who's shifting from designated hitter to shortstop. It's a group that has high expectations, even while being a much bigger target.
"We're approaching it like last year, like we still have something to prove," Koszewski said. "We still need to prove to people that we're here and we're not a one-hit wonder. We're here to build a dynasty and be good for years to come."