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College Baseball: Prairie State eager for trip to Florida

Updated: April 20, 2014 6:32AM



Prairie State baseball coach Bill Storrs has liked what he’s seen out of his team to date this season.

The attitude, the talent, the makeup of the roster. It’s all there.

But with the weather preventing outdoor practices and causing postponements for the Pioneers’ first two games, Storrs hasn’t gotten a chance to see what his team can do on the field.

Until now.

The Pioneers are off to Winter Haven, Fla., to play seven games in five days starting Friday.

“To say we’re anxious is a bit of an understatement,” Storrs said. “We’ve been going for two months practicing in the gym. We’re excited to get in some warm weather, play some ball. It will be good for us, and hopefully, we’ll come back to some good weather in Chicago.”

Prairie State opens its season with a doubleheader against Muscatine Community College (Iowa) at 3 p.m. Friday.

The Pioneers were dealt a blow in recent weeks when Lincoln-Way North grad Dominic Hartman broke a bone in his left foot when he was struck by a pitch during a live at-bat at practice. With a six- to eight-week recovery time, Hartman opted to redshirt this year so he can play in 2015.

The injury opens the door for the rest of Storrs’ squad to embrace a bigger role, especially with Hartman projected as Prairie State’s No. 4 hitter in the order.

“The injury will test us, but it gives players who didn’t have as big a role a chance to step up,” Storrs said. “It’s tough because we had our Opening Day lineup all set, and it stinks to lose him. Dan Ohde (Brother Rice) and Carter Bialka (Lincoln-Way North) are even more vital now to get things going for us, set the tone.”

Ohde and Bialka will be the Pioneers’ table-setters, while Mike Owens (Oak Forest) is expected to be the DH.

Storrs and his coaching staff have tried to keep things light while coping with bad weather. The Pioneers switch things up, pushing themselves one day in practice and easing up the next with three-point and free-throw shooting contests, typically players vs. coaches. They’ve even experimented with yoga.

“Yoga was pretty bad, pretty embarrassing,” Storrs said with a laugh. “We’re trying to do some fun things if we’re going to be stuck inside.”

St. Francis racking up the games

Even the weather in Florida has been unkind to St. Francis. Early in the month the Saints had two games in Florida postponed because of rain.

The Saints still managed to split four games, bringing their season record to 9-12. A doubleheader with Trinity International is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

David Kuhne is hitting .451 with 21 runs, and Joe Ruge has knocked in 18 runs with his .329 average to lead the offense. On the mound, Adam Panayotovich (Mount Carmel) has a 1.84 ERA over five starts with a 1-1 record. Chris Blatti (Joliet Catholic) has earned three wins and has thrown three complete games.



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