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Baseball: Bloom makes things interesting in Southland Conference

Updated: June 1, 2014 6:32AM



While it was expected Rich Central and Crete-Monee would battle for supremacy in the Southland Conference, Bloom has served notice it has the potential to make it a three-team race.

The Blazing Trojans swept Rich Central and split with Crete-Monee. They’re sitting 5-1 with nine conference games remaining, including one each against the Olympians and Warriors.

“For our program, we try to win the conference,” Bloom coach Job Gunderson said. “That’s our main goal. We set up our lineup and pitching for conference.”

Bloom hasn’t won a conference title since earning a share of the SICA South in 2009.

As long as senior right-hander Josh Hojnicki is on the mound, the Blazing Trojans are dangerous. Hojnicki, a four-year varsity player who began his career as a catcher, no-hit Rich East, striking out 13 of 15 batters during a 10-0 five-inning win, and fanned 16 during a 1-0 win over Crete-Monee. He also beat Rich Central 5-1.

“When he pitches as well as he has, he can keep us in the game against anybody,” Gunderson said. “He wants the ball and wants to be on the mound.”

Eric Luther, a senior third baseman/pitcher, leads the team in hitting. Outfielder Dave Metzner has provided a steady bat as well.

St. Rita shows depth

St. Rita has 33 players on its roster, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it provides great competition and keeps the starters on their toes. It’s a curse because it’s nearly impossible to keep everyone happy.

Coach Mike Zunica gives his seniors first crack. If they fail to produce, he makes changes. It’s a fair approach.

Zunica’s son, Mateo, didn’t play the first nine games. But when others didn’t get the job done, Zunica inserted Mateo, a sophomore, into the lineup. Mateo went 10-for-14. He’s since cooled off and has been replaced.

It’s hard to argue against the strategy. The Mustangs were 23-0 through Monday.

“It’s still totally unclear who our best nine are and who we’re going to run out there down the road,” Zunica said. “Our strength is kids pushing other kids to win spots. I root for the seniors. Them playing makes my job easier. Who can have a problem with me playing seniors? I don’t want to have to play my kid. But it’s the varsity and it comes down to producing.”

Player of the Week

Noel Castro, of Richards, is the SouthtownStar Baseball Player of the Week.

The junior first baseman was 7-for-10 with a double, four runs and eight RBI to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-0 week.



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