Baseball: Benet builds around four players
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media March 19, 2013 7:30PM
Chris Whelan of Benet, shown getting a base hit last season against Wheaton Warrenville South, was the team's leading run producer, with a .344 batting average and 23 RBI. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:05AM
Battling highly regarded programs that included St. Rita, St. Laurence, Mount Carmel, Marian Catholic, Nazareth and Plainfield North, Benet showed how close it was to having a breakout year under first-year coach Scott Lawler in 2012.
Estimating that his first Benet outfit last spring lost 10 or 11 one-run games, Lawler knows the fine line between his team’s 19-17 record and fourth-place finish in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference and a much better year.
With the graduation of veterans Sam Santa Maria, Chris Sanderson, Bobby Hayes, Chris Stout, Billy Tumpane, Andrew Mogni and Greg Arend, the Redwings will be looking to reload around their core of Pat McInerney, Chris Whelan, Kevin Jendra and Joe Boyle.
“I really like our team coming back. I’m excited with the four guys that are coming back — Jendra, Mac, Boyle and Whelan,” Lawler said. “I do think we (have others) like Joey Giuffre, who got to play some last year for us when Whelan pitched and when Mac pitched, he was in the lineup a lot.
“So he’ll probably get in there somewhere in the infield. Overall, I think we have some juniors coming up that, athletically, will help us in the lineup. I think, overall, depending on how well we do is depending on how the guys on the mound respond because we don’t have a lot of experience coming back on the mound. So the more they mature, the better that we’re gonna do.”
Sanderson, who went 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA, and Hayes led the Redwings’ staff a year ago, especially with McInerney still working his way back from injury issues stemming from the year before.
Whelan, who committed to Bradley as a shortstop even before his junior year has begun, will be asked to fill in at the top of Benet’s rotation.
Whelan compiled a 2.73 ERA in 25-2/3 innings of work last year as a sophomore, while McInerney threw 32-2/3 innings and sported a 4.50 ERA.
Offensively, the focus surrounds McInerney, who will be a preferred walk-on at the University of Illinois next fall, along with Whelan and Boyle — the team’s third baseman.
McInerney hit .278 with four home runs and 17 RBI in only 96 at-bats last spring and will start the season at first base when he’s not pitching and might see some time in the outfield as well.
Boyle and Whelan, meanwhile, had solid campaigns as sophomores last year, hitting .348 and .344 respectively. Whelan is the team’s leading run producer after knocking in 23 runs.
But it’s the presence of a healthy McInerney that has Lawler excited.
Lawler believes McInerney finally started to hit his stride during the summer in which he hit over .400 with five doubles, three home runs and six stolen bases.
“Last year, Mac was a nice imposing figure in our lineup, but he was just actually coming back from almost a rehab year (in 2011) for us last year with him,” he said. “He got hot in the summer and he’s going to Illinois to play baseball. … He looks really healthy on the (basketball) floor. So I just can’t wait to see him on the baseball diamond because he does (look healthy). He looks and feels as good as I think he has in a couple years.”
Jendra, who’ll move on to Rose-Hulman next fall to play at the college level, will play behind the plate for the Redwings after hitting .305 and chipping in 15 RBI last season. Lawler knows the shoes McInerney and Jendra have to fill with the 2012 senior class that helped lay the foundation for where he wants to take the Redwings.
“Our senior class (in 2012), they were very competitive and they did a great job leading. I think this year’s class will learn from what they did last year,” Lawler said. “I think we need to clean up our play a little bit. I think we had some defensive woes in some games that made us lose some of those one-run games and I think our senior class knows that and they’re gonna try to get our whole team together to do better, so we can pull out some of those one-run losses and to win.”