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Sports

Inexperienced, eager Pirates ready to take field

Ottawa junior middle infielder Ben Lundy, shown here turning to throw to first base in an attempted double play during a game last year against Sterling at King Field, returns for his junior season after starting at second base for the Pirates as a 10th-grader when he was a Times All-Area Honorable Mentionee.
Ottawa junior middle infielder Ben Lundy, shown here turning to throw to first base in an attempted double play during a game last year against Sterling at King Field, returns for his junior season after starting at second base for the Pirates as a 10th-grader when he was a Times All-Area Honorable Mentionee.

What the 2018 Ottawa Pirates lack in varsity experience, they make up for with eagerness.

Only two starters — then sophomores — return from last year's 18-15 team. However, fifth-year Pirates head coach Tom Hart (58-62 record) also welcomes back seven eager 12th-graders. Nine other juniors, who were members of a co-division title-winning ballclub at the JV level, join those nine returnees.
"We've got a couple of returning (starters), Ben Lundy and John Bruner, and then the current seniors that we have, they're ready to leave their own mark," Hart said. "We're very pleased with the seniors that have demonstrated leadership and work ethic all winter. What we've seen this winter and the first week and a half of practice, I mean, we've been very pleased with what our seniors are bringing.
"We have a lot of open spots, and it's been very healthy competition (amongst the kids). They want to prove what they can do to each other and the coaching staff. So practice has been very up-tempo and great. The concentration level has been high.
"There are opportunities really on the infield, in the outfield and on the pitching mound."
Lundy, a junior middle infielder/pitcher, was Ottawa's starting second baseman as a 10th-grader when he had a .311 batting average (with a team-leading 32 hits, including four doubles and a triple) and a .410 on-base percentage.
"He's excited to have an expanded role this year for the team," Hart said of Lundy, a Times All-Area Honorable Mentionee in 2017, "whether that's pitching or competing for the possibility of that (starting) shortstop position and hitting in an important spot to not only hit for average, but also drive in runs. He definitely has the confidence in the batter's box. He showed great athleticism out (in the field)."
Fellow 11th-grader Bruner (.233 BA, 2 2B, 10 runs batted in), who will return to the hill this spring after not taking it during an injury-plagued 2017, manned the hot corner last season.
The lone definite in the lineup, though, according to Hart, is junior Matt Mezel, who will start behind the plate.
"He's excellent defensively; very athletic, smart catcher," Hart said of Mezel. "Being a catcher is a special thing ... and he absolutely embraces it."
Others competing for positions on the infield include seniors Drew Doermann and Brandon Sauvageau at first base; and seniors Kates Hagi and Nathan Weitzel, along with juniors Wyatt Hill, Bradley Ruger and Alex Stevenson in the middle as well as at third base.
Vying for spots in the outfield are seniors Logan Cheatham, James Lang and Ryan Wendt, along with juniors Tyler Carson, Jared Herzog and Peter Walsh.
Rounding out the 18-player roster are junior catchers Ryan Gleason and Thor Rick.
Carson, Doermann (0-1, 2.47 earned-run average in 5 2/3 innings pitched), Herzog, Lundy and Stevenson are in competition to crack the three-man conference starting rotation, according to Hart, while "several" others are competing for various roles on the pitching staff.
How the Pirates perform on the bump is without a doubt the biggest question mark. Just 7 2/3 innings pitched is the extent of their varsity experience.
"We're going to have to rely on our juniors to pitch a lot of innings, throw in situations that not many juniors get an opportunity to throw in," Hart said, "and, hopefully, we can weather the storm through some rough innings here and there, but still have confidence in our pitches and in our ability. We just need to make sure that we don't get too high, we don't get too low, and we just need to compete and stay in the moment pitch by pitch."
With such limited experience, getting early-season games in this year is of the utmost importance for Ottawa. The team has 11 games scheduled in March, which includes a weekend trip to southern Illinois at the end of the month to Concord Triopia and Jacksonville.
"(The kids are) very excited for the beginning (of the season)," Hart said, "and that's important for them taking ownership in their season."
 
 
ROSTER
No. Name Pos. Yr.
3 Ryan Wendt OF Sr.
4 Matt Mezel C Jr.
6 James Lang OF Sr.
7 Brandon Sauvageau 1B/P Sr.
8 Alex Stevenson P/IF Jr.
9 Nathan Weitzel IF Sr.
10 Wyatt Hill IF Jr.
11 Ben Lundy IF/P Jr.
13 Kates Hagi IF Sr.
14 Peter Walsh OF Jr.
15 Bradley Ruger UT Jr.
17 Ryan Gleason C Jr.
18 Jared Herzog P/OF Jr.
20 Thor Rick C Jr.
21 Drew Doermann 1B/P Sr.
23 Tyler Carson P/OF Jr.
24 John Bruner 3B/P Jr.
26 Logan Cheatham OF Sr.
Head coach: Tom Hart (5th year)

SCHEDULE
Date Opponent/Event Time
3/14 SERENA 4:30 p.m.
3/17 CARY-GROVE 11 a.m.
3/19 IMSA 4:30 p.m.
3/20 ST. BEDE 4:30 p.m.
3/21 at Plainfield South 4:30 p.m.
3/22 at Pontiac 4:30 p.m.
3/24 at Concord Triopia 12 p.m.
3/25 at Jacksonville Trny. TBA
3/27 at Princeton 4:30 p.m.
3/29 at Streator 4:30 p.m.
4/2 PLANO 4:30 p.m.
4/3 at Seneca 4:30 p.m.
4/4 at Morris 4:30 p.m.
4/5 at RI Alleman 4:30 p.m.
4/9 ROCHELLE 4:30 p.m.
4/10 at Rochelle 4:30 p.m.
4/12 ROCHELLE 4:30 p.m.
4/14 at Sycamore 10 a.m.
4/16 STERLING 4:30 p.m.
4/17 at Sterling 4:30 p.m.
4/19 STERLING 4:30 p.m.
4/21 at Brad.-Bour. (DH) 11 a.m.
4/24 at Kaneland 4:30 p.m.
4/25 HALL 4:30 p.m.
4/26 KANELAND 4:30 p.m.
4/30 at Geneseo 4:30 p.m.
5/1 GENESEO 4:30 p.m.
5/3 at Geneseo 4:30 p.m.
5/7 at La Salle-Peru 5:30 p.m.
5/8 LA SALLE-PERU 5:30 p.m.
5/10 at La Salle-Peru 5:30 p.m.
5/12 OSWEGO (DH) 11 a.m.
5/15 STREATOR 4:30 p.m.
5/17 SANDWICH 4:30 p.m.
5/18 UNITED TWP. 4 p.m.

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