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.


Forget the stiff upper lip — make it a hairy one

Reprinted from
June 24, 2010

  Leo The Lip couldn’t do the job.
  Now, maybe it’s time for the Cubs to seek out a hairy upper lip instead.
  As Chicagoans continue to bask in the afterglow of a world championship captured by a team most of them had forgotten existed until just recently, one fan brought up a good point while conversing with a couple of friends a week or so ago. I wasn’t one of those friends, but since they were sitting outside and I was busy trying to look as if I were doing yard work right next door, eavesdropping was ridiculously easy.
  Most of their conversation was of the basic guys-talking-sports variety, but during the gabfest, an interesting observation was made by the aforementioned fan: The Blackhawks had become the fourth Chicago-based title winner in a row to be coached by a guy with a mustache.
  Preceding Joel Quenneville were White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, Bulls coach Phil Jackson and Bears coach Mike Ditka. Lovie Smith, on the contrary, is clean-shaven, which may have had more to do with the Bears’ inability to beat the Indianapolis Colts a few years ago in the Super Bowl than Rex Grossman’s quarterbacking inadequacies.
  And that got me to thinking about some of the past shortcomings of Chicago teams. As I was growing up, success and Chicago sports were mutually exclusive terms.
  There were a few close calls — the 1969 Cubs, under the guidance of Leo “The Lip” Durocher, suffered the most infamous late-season collapse, but the 1967 White Sox, 1970-71 Blackhawks and 1974-75 Bulls also disappointed millions.