Disabato: Talkin’ baseball ... and making the cases for the Southland’s best for 2014
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @disabato January 29, 2014 8:06PM
Mount Caramel's Richard Fordon | File photo
Updated: March 3, 2014 3:25PM
For the next few minutes — or as long as it takes to read this column — let’s think happy thoughts.
Erase memories of “ChiBeria” and the polar vortex from your mind.
Think sunshine, sunscreen and sunburn.
Think peanuts in the shell, green grass and blue skies.
Yes, think baseball — high school baseball.
I’m well aware the prep baseball season doesn’t always equate to warmth. Those March and April and, yes, May ballgames require a jacket, sometimes a pair of gloves.
But it’s nothing like the last three weeks. Not even close.
And the possibility of a 60 degree March afternoon is very real.
Schools can begin baseball practice March 3 — just 32 days from today — and officially play games March 17 — nothing like a postgame Shamrock Shake to cool off after a sunny game.
In other words, the season is right around the corner.
I’m in the midst of selecting the SouthtownStar Preseason No. 1.
By my count, as many as six teams are candidates for the top honor this season: defending Class 4A state champion Mount Carmel, summer league state champ St. Rita, fellow Catholic League powerhouse St. Laurence, SouthWest Suburban Blue cohorts Sandburg and Homewood-Flossmoor, and South Suburban Blue force Lemont.
It’s a tough call. Each team has the goods to make a case for top billing. However, only one can earn the distinction.
Let me explain the reasons these Super Six are being considered to be the top dog:
Mount Carmel: The Caravan returns five starters and five Division I recruits in outfielders Dave Dobrinich (Western Illinois) and Josh Stowers (Louisville), infielder Ako Thomas (Michigan), catcher Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) and pitcher Richard Fordon (Northwestern). Throw in pitchers Marko Boricich, Nelson Munoz and Jack Pappas and infielder Malik Carpenter, and the Caravan has the potential to repeat as state champ.
St. Rita: I don’t put much stock in summer league championships, knowing the competition is inconsistent. Look no further than the omission of the Caravan from the summer tournament. However, the Mustangs are legit, boasting a dominant left-hander in Mike Costanzo (Austin Peay), a slick infield defense led by Jake Shepski (Notre Dame), Tyler Halas (Tennessee), Marty Bechina and Nate Soria, and speed and power in the outfield in Shane Peisker and A.J. Fuller (Logan Junior College). This could be the season the ’Stangs bring home the elusive spring state championship.
St. Laurence: The Vikings return nearly every starter from their Class 4A regional championship squad, led by SouthtownStar 2013 Player of the Year Mike Kornacker (Purdue). He’ll have plenty of support up and down the lineup, featuring Brad Wood (Northern Illinois), T.J. Marik (Austin Peay), Roger Wilson, Mike Miller, Kevin White and Nate Tholl. No question, Vikings are loaded.
Sandburg: The Eagles own arguably the best three-man rotation in the Southland with Bryan Pall (Michigan), Sean Leland (Louisville) and Matthias Dietz (Logan Junior College). Not only does each boast overpowering heaters, but sick movement. However, beyond infielder Alec Martinez, who also will provide depth on the bump, and outfielders Dan Santiago and Julian Gutierrez, the Eagles offense is a question mark.
H-F: The Vikings boast arguably the top pitcher in the Class of 2015 in Jeremy Orbik (Kentucky) and catching prospect in sweet-swinging Jesse Forestell, who also is a stud defensively. Isaac Cutrara and James Sheehan will back up Orbik in the rotation and when the duo is not pitching, will provide additional pop in the lineup along with Quincy Jones. Shortstop Kendall King has great range and is as smooth as a jar of Skippy peanut butter.
Lemont: The Indians have not one but two LSU recruits in pitcher Jake Latz and catcher Mike Papierski. Latz, a lefty, can be downright dominant. Mike Wisz (Houston) and Jake Terrazas (Saint Louis) are quality hurlers who will also provide offense, along with returnees Charlie Wright, Eric Tucker and Ryan Folliard.
Well, there you have it. A tough call, for sure.
So which team is going to be our preseason No. 1?
I’d tell you, but I have to go out to shovel snow.