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Getting hot in Arizona

  • Written by Ken Karson

Vikings open season with tournament title

Deserts are easily found in Arizona, but St. Laurence baseball players viewed that southwestern state as more of an oasis last week.
The reason why is easy to understand: Arizona presented the Vikings with a satisfying alternative to the below-normal temperatures and soggy diamonds that have plagued this area and gave them a chance to enjoy ideal baseball conditions. While spring-break getaways have been standard practice for St. Laurence in recent seasons, a journey in this particular direction was a first for it.
And, if coach Pete Lotus has anything to say about the situation, it won’t be the last trip to that destination for the Vikings. Not only did they get in every game — something that didn’t happen a year ago in Florida due to rain — but they also triumphed each time out.
St. Laurence beat five opponents in a span of four days, a string of conquests that culminated with a tournament championship-clinching 7-4 victory over Ralston Valley (Colo.) on Friday.
“I think it’s definitely big,” Lotus said of his club’s 5-0 start to the 2014 campaign. “To be able to have success against teams that are used to playing in good weather and had already played some games was huge. We knew these first two weeks [of the schedule] were going to be tough, but hopefully this was a great stepping-stone.”
Seeing as how the Vikings had no on-field practice time prior to departing for Arizona, Lotus’ main goal for his athletes was to simply have them stay competitive against foes he knew would be formidable. And he wasn’t only thinking about his projected regulars.

Chilly reception

  • Written by Ken Karson

Spartans’ bats cool in opening week

Winter is officially over, but Oak Lawn’s bats remained in hibernation during opening week of the 2014 baseball season.
The weather was partly to blame for the Spartans’ quiet offense, but also contributing was some stout pitching by their two foes. Both St. Rita and Lincoln-Way Central boasted live arms, the former calling on three different ones to stymie Oak Lawn last Wednesday at the Ray Kroc Center in Chicago.
The Spartans were limited to Joe Dodaro’s fifth-inning single hit-wise, and he immediately got erased in a double play. Oak Lawn batters also fanned 12 times — seven of them coming on called third strikes — in what ultimately became a 5-0 victory for the Mustangs.
On Saturday at Chicago State University, the Spartans didn’t fare a whole lot better as they were held in check by Knights hurler Brandon Bass, who was pitching before seven radar gun-toting scouts. They clocked Bass’ fastball at between 91 and 94 miles per hour, and only three Oak Lawn hitters were able to solve him to any measurable degree.
Three of the Spartans’ four hits were registered in the sixth inning, but a pickoff play and twin killing snuffed out the budding rally and ensured that Oak Lawn would be the victim of a second consecutive whitewash. Lincoln-Way Central triumphed 10-0, as the game ended when the Knights created a double-digit edge with one more run in their portion of the sixth.
Like every other squad that hasn’t ventured beyond Illinois’ borders, the Spartans’ time spent outdoors has been severely limited because of poor weather. They did practice on Oak Lawn’s artificial-turf football field, but they “couldn’t take BP or see live pitching a whole lot,” according to coach Bill Gerny.

Living in the past

  • Written by Ken Karson

Knights’ productive offense crushes Momence

Chicago Christian revisited its past on Saturday, much to coach Eric Brauer’s delight.
Not only were things the way they used to be, but more importantly, the way they ought to be.
At least that was Brauer’s viewpoint in the aftermath of his squad’s 12-0 demolition of Momence. What pleased him most wasn’t the run total itself, but how the Knights went about collecting their markers.
Christian stroked 10 hits and received six free passes, meaning that it brought 75 percent of its baserunners all the way around to the plate. That high success rate was a common occurrence for the Knights in 2013 and, according to Brauer, “how we pieced together 30 wins.”
“You capitalize as often as you can,” he said. “We did a better job of that [here].
“We’ve scored a lot of two-out runs [so far in 2014], but we’ve left a ton of guys on base [before this]. If you’re constantly leaving guys on base, it takes its toll.”
In this instance, the toll was taken on the Redskins, who lost in just 4 ½ innings at the Ray Kroc Center. Christian’s third game of the week at that Chicago-based site featured the locals scoring multiple runs in each of their four at-bats, with four-run eruptions in both the third and fourth innings representing the apexes.
Interestingly, five of the Knights’ RBI were accrued without benefit of a hit. Josh Novak lofted a sacrifice fly, Drew Van Buren and Pat McCarthy each drove in a run with a groundout, and Christian Bolhuis (walk) and Mike Santarelli (hit by pitch) got aboard while the bases were filled.

Making a pitch for excellence

  • Written by Ken Karson

Mound work looms large in Rice’s winning week

The baseball field at Immaculate Conception was an ideal setting for Brother Rice last week.
That’s because “immaculate” was also a pretty good adjective to describe the Crusaders’ pitching performances in four straight games.
How good was Rice’s mound work? Consider the following — the Crusaders’ offense collected just a baker’s dozen worth of hits over the first three contests played in Elmhurst, yet Rice went unbeaten. Then to conclude a productive week, Rice rode Ian McGinnis’ three-hit, seven-strikeout effort through six stanzas to an 11-2 rout of Aurora Central Catholic on Sunday at Plunkett Field.
The win was the Crusaders’ sixth in seven 2014 outings. Also pocketing victories on the hill last week were Mike Enriquez, freshman Ryan Kutt and Alex Alarcon, all of whom had their triumphs nailed down by strong relief hurling from Kevin Biondic.
“With good defense and great pitching, you give yourself a chance to win every game,” Rice coach John McCarthy said. “They [all] went out there and threw strikes, mixed speeds and hit the zone. It was fun to see.

Bartosh

A tough guy tees off on golf

Reprinted from

April 14, 2011

  Maybe Phil Donahue is to blame, or perhaps Alan Alda, although I tend to cut the latter some slack because his Hawkeye Pierce character frequently made me laugh.
  Actually, though, it’s Alda’s erstwhile television alter ego that played a significant role in shifting society’s general perception of what constitutes appropriate male behavior. During its wildly popular heyday, “M*A*S*H” showed Hawkeye evolving from an unapologetic nurse chaser to a virtual women’s-rights crusader, which might have been at least remotely possible had the Korean War begun sometime in the 1970s and lasted 11 years, like the TV program did.
  But we were asked to believe this attitudinal adjustment could have happened in less than one-third that amount of time and within an early 1950s setting. Uh-uh, don’t think so.
  Nevertheless, thanks to Hawkeye and daytime talk-show pioneer Donahue, the publicly accepted male of the past 30 years is one that critics deride as a “touchy-feely” type. Whereas anger and enjoyment once represented the full range of displayed feelings in guys, today’s gentler gentlemen are allowed — heck, encouraged — to bring to the surface whatever emotion a particular situation warrants.