Baseball: Inexperience holds questions for Waubonsie
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media March 19, 2013 8:08PM
Troy Fumagalli was Waubonsie’s ace last season, compiling a 6-1 record with a 1.66 ERA. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 25, 2013 6:03AM
Describing his team as “really unknown” heading into the 2013 season, Waubonsie Valley coach Dan Fezzuoglio knows more questions lie in front of him right now than answers.
Winning 15 games in 2012, marking the second time in the last five years the program has done so, the goal for Fezzuoglio and company is to get back to the 20-win mark, which it did for three straight years from 2009-11.
Finding a way to get the program back on track begins with Troy Fumagalli on the mound. But as Fezzuogio admits, that’s where the questions start for his Warriors.
“That’s gonna be (the question). That’s our question mark. Troy’s the only guy coming back,” he said of the pitching staff. “He was our best pitcher and most experienced. That’s all I can say from that perspective, which really makes us a wild card. We do have guys who are capable of stepping up and throwing.”
Fumagalli came up big whenever the Warriors needed him in 2012.
In the midst of posting wins over both Naperville schools last spring, the 6-foot-7, 225-pound left-hander paced Waubonsie Valley’s staff by compiling a 6-1 record with a 1.66 ERA while striking out 47 batters in 46 1/3 innings.
James Palasz, Mitch Stefani and Ryan Vasicek filled in the spots behind Fumagalli a year ago but have all departed to graduation.
Tyler Hasper, who hit .309 mostly out of the leadoff spot, saw some time on the mound last year for the Warriors and will likely see more time there this year, along with seniors Julian Langford and C.J. Lee.
“We look to those guys to be really the core — Hasper, Lee, Fumagalli and Langford,” Fezzuoglio said. “Corey Wright, another senior, sort of a spot starter and middle-relief guy (who) we can think can help us, too. He pitched well in the summer. Not very overpowering but throws strikes.”
Junior Jack Eddy, the Warriors’ future replacement for Dylan Warden at quarterback on the football team, will also help on the staff and is someone Fezzuoglio sees as a “lead, a 1-2 guy” in a year as a senior and will be joined to provide pitching depth by another junior in Ben Vietri.
While Fezzuoglio holds confidence in the numbers of pitchers he’ll be able to go to throughout the season, failing to execute by routinely getting runners over and eventually getting them in to score bogged down the Warriors’ offense for much of last year.
Trying to rectify that issue this season will be in the hands of a group that will be inexperienced coming into 2013.
“We’re gonna be really young offensively,” he said. “I think, at one point, we’ll have a sophomore catcher up — Luke Marzano — and we had him up with us this summer, so it looks like he can hold his own. We’ll be leaning on him to do most of the catching.”
Hasper, Fumagalli and Lee are the three players returning that have the most experience within the everyday lineup.
Focusing on his importance to the pitching staff last season, Fumagalli hit only .250 but Lee joined Hasper, who led the team with his 21 RBI, in hitting over .300 by chipping in with a .305 average.
“Obviously, if those guys hit, that will help,” Fezzuoglio said.
Senior second baseman Dalton Cooper and senior outfielders Alex Tazic and Jake Bennema will get opportunities to hit after not seeing much time on the field as juniors.
Varsity newcomer, junior outfielder Drew Ellam, will be asked to help anchor the lineup alongside Hasper, while Tad Wegner will chip in behind Marzano behind the plate and play some outfield.
On the infield, Vietri will get a look as a corner infielder and Nick Drago will play some third.
“We think we have some versatility with the younger guys,” Fezzuoglio said. “We’re gonna get a lot of innings, a lot of at-bats.”
Forced to play in a “play-in game” at home against West Aurora to start the postseason last May, getting off to good starts has been a problem for Waubonsie Valley in recent years.
Getting back to that 20-win plateau might not be easy right away with a young and inexperienced group, but Fezzuoglio believes his team will grow and get better as the year moves along.
“I don’t want to (play in a play-in game), obviously. Hopefully, we can get position that if we are winning some games, we’d get into position where we wouldn’t have to do a play-in,” he said. “Hopefully we can get off to a decent start. That’s sort of been the bugaboo for us.”