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Crusaders looking to reload, not rebuild

Logan Komater hits a drive into the gap for a base hit last season.
Logan Komater hits a drive into the gap for a base hit last season.

Marquette Academy baseball coach Todd Hopkins is given to a bit of hyperbole when it comes to stating the prospects for his teams, but this year his sense of uncertainty over what to expect from his latest edition of Crusader baseball clubs seems to be justified.
One only need look at the statistics from a year ago and the roster for this spring to have questions of his or her own.
Lost from last year’s squad that went 27-5, undefeated Tri-County Conference champs and 1A regional winner are 10 players, including four of the five players named to The Times All-Area First and Second teams a year ago. They are staff ace and cleanup hitter Bryce Fanti, shortstop/No. 2 pitcher/No. 5 hitter Michael Obos, third baseman and No. 3 hitter Dylan Gerding, and second baseman and leadoff batter Joe Hawks.
While several returnees were instrumental in the team’s success, it was for the most part in supporting roles. This is their team now, and just who will step up in certain areas, including on the mound, remains to be seen.
“This will be the most inexperienced team we’ve had in 20 years,” said Hopkins, whose teams in his 20 seasons have won 20 games 14 times, never won less than 17 and have nine regional and three sectional titles. “We have good kids who are good ballplayers, we’re just going to be young. This is a youth movement, and hopefully we’ll be ready to go by May. ... Hopefully by then we’ll be a team that gets hot at the right time and we’ll go from there.
"In the meantime, it’s going to be a struggle.”
There is some stability at certain positions with senior Michael Killelea at first base, junior Nate Melvin at shortstop, behind the plate with senior Zach Dyche and in the outfield with junior Logan Komater in center field and senior Kyle Cook in left.
The hole left by Hawks at second base has yet to be filled, as his backup a year ago was Melvin, but junior Eric Donahue and freshman Luke Couch will be tried there.
Senior Bryce Foster and junior Hunter McAlpine are candidates for third, while juniors Hayden Price and Jack Durdan will likely see time at first and DH with Killelea. Vying for the third outfield spot will be senior Sam McGrath, juniors Liam Dougherty, Jack Snook and Max Mitchell, and freshman Shane Reynolds.
But the most glaring difference would appear to be in pitching, where Fanti (0.44 ERA) and Obos (2.14) last year went a combined 18-1 with 139 strikeouts in 113 innings. Komater, who will be at the virtual center of all things the Crusaders do, and Foster, who started the season as the No. 2 before going down with an injury, will lead a staff of somewhat unknown quantities. Dyche, Melvin, Mitchell and sophomore John Thompson, who all saw time on the mound a year ago, will be joined by juniors McAlpine, Reynolds, Connor Durdan and Bryce Jones.
“I don’t know if we’re going to have anyone as dominating as that,” Hopkins said of his graduated aces, “but we have guys who will throw strikes and compete, some younger guys, some will be older guys, some will be juniors, it all depends. … A lot of guys who didn’t have to carry the load last year are going to have to step up and do just that this year. I think they will. It may not happen at the beginning, because we have a pretty tough schedule down at Jacksonville.
“There are a lot of question marks, there are a lot of pieces that aren’t set in stone, so we’ll try several lineups for a while, but there are a lot of kids with talent working very hard right now. We’ll see what happens.”
Player Pos. Yr.
Kyle Cook OF Sr.
Zach Dyche  C/OF/P Sr.
Bryce Foster P/3B/C Sr.
Michael Killelea 1B Sr.
Sam McGrath OF Sr.
Eric Donahue OF/IF Jr.
Liam Dougherty OF/C Jr.
Connor Durdan OF/P/IF Jr.
Jack Durdan 1B Jr.
Bryce Jones OF/P Jr.
Logan Komater OF/P Jr.
Hunter McAlpine 3B/P Jr.
Nate Melvin SS/OF/P Jr.
Max Mitchell P/OF Jr.
Hayden Price 1B/OF/P Jr.
Jack Snook OF/IF Jr.
John Thompson P So.
Luke Couch IF/P Fr.
Shane Reynolds P/OF Fr.
Head coach: Todd Hopkins

3/16-17 at Lenz Field, Jacksonville  TBA
3/21 PROPHETSTOWN 4:30 p.m.
3/22 at Indian Creek 4:30 p.m.
3/27 NEWARK (DH) 4:15 p.m.
3/28 LAMOILLE 4:30 p.m.
3/29 at Amboy 4:30 p.m.
3/31 at Fieldcrest (DH) 1 p.m.
4/3 at Peoria Christian 4:30 p.m.
4/5 PEORIA CHRISTIAN 4:30 p.m.
4/7 at Plano 11 a.m.
4/10 WOODLAND 4:30 p.m.
4/12 at Woodland 4:30 p.m.
4/13 at Warren/Stockton 7 p.m.
4/14 at Muddy River Classic TBA
4/17 at Putnam County 4:30 p.m.
4/19 PUTNAM COUNTY 4:30 p.m.
4/20 CROSSROADS 4:30 p.m.
4/24 ROANOKE-BENSON 4:30 p.m.
4/25 SENECA 4:30 p.m.
4/26 at Roanoke-Benson 4:30 p.m.
4/28 at E-L-PP (DH) 4:30 p.m.
5/1 at Midland 4:30 p.m.
5/2 SOMONAUK 4:30 p.m.
5/3 MIDLAND 4:30 p.m.
5/5 SOUTH BELOIT (DH) 1 p.m.
5/7 at Henry-Senachwine 4:30 p.m.
5/8 HENRY-SENACHWINE 4:30 p.m.
5/9 ST. BEDE 4:30 p.m.

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