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Baseball preview: Top two pitchers return for Glenbard North

CAROL STREAM — Inconsistent hitting and defense kept Glenbard North baseball just below the .500 mark in 2012.

This spring, 10 seniors return to field for the Panthers with hopes of turning around those fortunes.

“We definitely have a senior-dominant team this year,” said coach Rich Smelko. “We’ve got quite a few guys coming back with playing experience and a lot of these seniors this year had some quality starts for us last year. They got their feet wet.”

Any talk of Glenbard North must first start with its pitching as the squad welcomes back its top two starters in Purdue-recruit Matt Frawley and Matt Albin. Junior Kyle Crites is expected to be the No. 3.

“Pitching I would say is our strength going into the season with those two guys up top in our rotation,” the coach said. “Brett Consitt was also a reliever for us last year who did well for us.

“The plan is for those guys to keep us in games. If we play some better defense when they are throwing, for that matter when anyone is throwing, we will put ourselves in a good situation. And we improved drastically over the summer defensively. We just have to make the routine plays, that’s the bottom line.”

Offensively, the Panthers will look to do the little things, like moving runners, to be successful. The squad does return leadoff hitter Brandon Kressner, who hit .303 last season, and catcher Jeff LaPage, who is penciled into the third spot.

“We are not a team that will put up 10 runs consistently on the board,” Smelko said. “But we do have some guys on the team who can swing the bat. We are more of a team that likes to manufacture runs and not sit back and wait for the big inning.”

Glenbard North will be challenged early and often by its difficult schedule, which is enhanced by the strength of the DuPage Valley Conference this spring.

“Every year, it’s tough,” the coach said. “Naperville Central is returning a ton of guys and they have three great arms coming back with a lot of bats in their line-up. Glenbard East is returning just about everyone from last year and they will be tough. And Wheaton North will be good.”

A year ago, the Panthers went 9-12 in league play but that mark could easily have been better.

“I think there were only a few games last year where the game got out of hand,” Smelko said. “We expect to be in every game. If we make the routine plays defensively and hit with runners in scoring position, we will be fine. We just can’t fall behind by four or five runs.”

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