Baseball: Mound inexperience a concern for Metea
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media March 19, 2013 8:08PM
Metea Valley players celebrate their 2-1 win over Neuqua Valley last June at the Class 4A Romeoville Sectional. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 23, 2013 1:19PM
Surprising many outside the program by upsetting a pair of top-three seeds in the Romeoville Sectional last spring behind the core that established the program, the hard part comes Metea Valley’s way in 2013.
Saying goodbye to Ryan Solomon, Kenny Obendorf and the two left-handers at the top of its rotation in Tom Bolle and Billy Sheeren, Metea Valley begins anew as it aims to build off the success and expectations that core created.
“Even though a lot of things have changed: we’ve lost a lot of kids, we have a lot of holes to fill all over the place, a lot of uncertainty right now in terms of who’s gonna play where, who’s gonna be in our rotation,” Metea Valley coach Craig Tomczak said. “A lot of jobs up for grabs, but I think it would be wrong of us as a coaching staff to take the expectations backwards.
“The expectations have been set and I think as we move forward, regardless of who you graduate, who’s coming back — we’ve already faced it, I mean, those expectations are high. I think in the area that we’re in, with many, many great programs around us, I think we have to have high expectations.”
The Mustangs finished last spring at 20-18 while playing some of their best baseball of the year en route to picking off both Hinsdale South and Neuqua Valley in the postseason before falling to Naperville Central in the title game of the Class 4A Romeoville Sectional.
Tomczak knows his team’s aspirations for this season begin and end with how Bolle and Sheeren are replaced.
The two pitchers combined to post a 12-5 record. Sheeren led the staff with his seven victories and Bolle had a sparkling 1.65 ERA.
“That’s a great question and I don’t know. At this moment, I can tell you we don’t have that answer.” Tomczak said about replacing the two.
Junior Max Custer and senior Matt Karlins will be two of the arms the Mustangs will be looking to as they try to assemble a staff that will keep them competitive.
Custer went 2-5 with a 3.41 ERA in tossing 41 innings last year as a sophomore, while Karlins only threw 15 2/3 innings last year in compiling a 1-2 record to go with a 6.70 ERA.
Unsure of where the depth is in the program as it enters its third year, Tomczak said as many as three sophomores might be asked to pitch at some point.
“Our pitching right now is unproven, young, untested — whatever you want to call it,” he said.
“So from that end, there’s a lot of question marks at this point. But I think that’s a beautiful thing. It gives kids a great opportunity to step up to the forefront. If somebody wants a job in our rotation, we tell them every day, ‘Go get it.’ ”
Offensively, Metea Valley’s fortunes for this season are a little bit more defined.
Three seniors — Andrew Fox, Michael Mooney and Mike Fitzgerald — will anchor the Mustangs’ lineup in the middle, in hopes of replacing some of the production Solomon, Obendorf and catcher Austin Kinnavy left behind upon graduating.
Finishing second on the team with his 24 runs, Fox hit .331 with a homer and 16 RBI, while Mooney and Fitzgerald hit .310 and .282, respectively.
Fitzgerald finished second to Obendorf on the team with his 22 RBI in 2012, while Mooney was right behind him with 21 RBI.
With the two big guys gone and trying to fill some smaller holes in the lineup and in the field, Tomczak knows that trio will need to step up if the Mustangs are hoping to follow their late-season surge in 2012 with any sort of repeat performance in 2013.
“I think Fitz, Fox, Mooney—they’ve been around for three years now. They know what our expectations are,” he said.
“All three of them put a lot of work in the offseason, but they’ve become good leaders for us, too. You can tell they want to be a part of something again after the little bit of success we had last year.
“They’re doing a great job of leading some of these younger kids every day. Inexperienced kids, the new kids on varsity, the sophomores and juniors — whatever the case is. They’re trying to get them to follow them because they know how, as a program, we want to get things done.”