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Sports wrap

  • Written by Anthony Nasella

  Sandburg, like every boys’ track program in the state, was pumped and primed to move from the indoor season to the outdoor one. And the Eagles made their first outside appearance at the Hillcrest Hawk Invitational a memorable one.

  Last year’s SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue champion finished first in a 14-school field that included fellow 2013 league kingpins Bloom Township (Southland Athletic Conference) and Shepard (South Suburban Conference Red). Sandburg racked up 129 points to finish 30 ahead of runner-up Crete Monee.
  Brother Rice (95), Bloom (87) and Shepard (63½) rounded out the top five.
  “We were pretty tired of those indoor meets,” Eagles coach Joe Nemeth said. “It was a really nice night for our first meet. This was the best weather we’ve had at Hillcrest in the decade we’ve competed at that invite.
  “In the first week, we just kind of see how things go, and I thought we did pretty well. I think we’re fine as a team.
  “It was a pretty tough winter for everybody, [but] all of our guys persevered through some of those cold months. We started practices in January, [so] we were more than ready to get outdoors.”

Pitcher (almost) perfect

  • Written by Ken Karson

Smith’s one-hitter highlights Astros’ performances

  His common surname belies an uncommon mound presence.
  At least that’s been the case so far for Brett Smith. The Shepard junior was given a decent buildup prior to the 2014 baseball season — Astros coach Frank DiFoggio tabbed him as a potential eight-game winner if injury could be avoided — and Smith has validated that optimism.
  He didn’t collect a win in his initial outing, but his seven-strikeout, one-hit effort versus Harlan did open some eyes. Smith continued operating in that same high gear last Wednesday, and this time his work was rewarded.
  Like Harlan before it, Tinley managed to collect just one hit off Smith, and the Titans were set down on third strikes a total of nine times. Shepard wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball, either, but Smith made sure that the run his team scored in the second inning was enough to produce a South Suburban Conference crossover victory.
  Interestingly, Smith’s latest impressive exhibition almost never happened.
  “He came to me in the second inning and told me he didn’t feel right,” DiFoggio said. “I asked him if he wanted to come out, but he said he’d keep going. My advice to him was to throw at 70 or 75 percent.

Uplifting experience

  • Written by Ken Karson

Victory gives Spartans psychological boost

  The victory amount rose by just one, but the confidence level grew exponentially because of it.
  In a nutshell, that described Oak Lawn’s baseball week, which featured a 10-7 win over Morton last Tuesday as its lone legitimate high point. However, that triumph also represented a breakthrough for the Spartans, whose first three outings of the year all ended with them as a shutout victim.
  The last of those occurred on Monday, when Sandburg’s Matthias Dietz overwhelmed Oak Lawn batters and fired a no-hitter in what became a 7-0 Eagles victory in their season-opener. Dietz struck out nine straight men to begin the contest and finished the day with 12 whiffs.
  “This guy came out and was just as good,” Spartans coach Bill Gerny said, comparing Dietz with Lincoln-Way Central hurler Brandon Bass and a trio of St. Rita pitchers who had stymied Oak Lawn previously.

Hitting on all cylinders

  • Written by Ken Karson

Offensive punch gives Bulldogs winning week

  Richards not only carried big sticks last week, but it put them to good use more often than not.
  Early in a baseball season, pitchers are supposed to be ahead of hitters in terms of settling into a groove. And when outdoor practices have pretty much been nonexistent due to cold temperatures and soggy fields, the theory would seem to be especially applicable.
  The Bulldogs, however, never received that news.
  “We’re living proof of the opposite,” Richards coach Brian Wujcik said. “We’re struggling to throw strikes, but luckily, we’ve been able to outslug a few teams. In our first five games, we’re swinging the bats pretty well — we got a double-digit number of hits in three of those.”
  And in each instance, that resulted in a Bulldogs victory. Richards downed Harlan 9-5 last Monday, then added decisions over Mt. Carmel (16-15 in eight innings) and Stagg (14-4 in six innings) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
  The Bulldogs also dropped two verdicts, as Sandburg (13-1 in five innings) and De La Salle (6-5) got the better of them in Tuesday and Wednesday clashes.
  “We’ve got work to do,” Wujcik said. “We can hit with anybody, but if we allow teams to hang around because we don’t throw strikes, we can get burned by anybody.”
  The most vivid example of Richards’ uncertainty on the hill occurred Saturday, when it was unable to maintain a 9-0 lead gained on the Caravan within the first two frames. Not only did Mt. Carmel eventually erase that large deficit, it inched ahead in the top of the eighth with a solo homer.
  Kyle Garrett’s single and a walk to Eric Mallo began the Bulldogs’ portion of the eighth, but they were down to their last out before Shawn Chiaramonte saved the day with his game-winning two-RBI double.

Not averse to adversity

  • Written by Ken Karson

Vikings rebound smartly from initial loss

  All good things must come to an end.
  St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus certainly doesn’t dispute that sentiment. What he had been wondering, though, was how his own players would react when finally faced with such a circumstance.
  Lotus got his answer Saturday in Indianapolis, where the Vikings competed in a two-day baseball event. Prior to traveling to Indiana, St. Laurence had won seven games in a row, including five in Arizona, and most of those victories had been realized with relatively little difficulty.
  The Vikings also picked up a win on Friday at the tournament, that one a 14-2 rout of Carroll, Ind. So when St. Laurence took the field on Saturday versus Westfield, there was no reason for its athletes to think in negative terms.