DARIEN — As Hinsdale South’s baseball team gets set to defend the West Suburban gold title it won last spring, there are questions.
As in, what is the Hornets’ greatest strength?
Is it the infield, which returns starters that can play third base, shortstop and second base?
Is it the pitching staff, which returns Mike Marrera, who went 6-0 and carried a 1.38 ERA last spring, and goes seven or eight deep?
Could it be the batting order that sees the bats near the top of the order return? Or could it be the speed on the basepaths?
In the field, Don Buonavolanto is back at shortstop and Jerry Stoltz can play three of the four infield spots. Grant Morford can play either corner infield spot and pitches, and Mike Rizzo can play first when not pitching.
“We’ve got good flexibility there,” coach Paul Hoel said. “We’ve got five our six guys that can play any spot.”
Matt Reschke and D.J. Deolitsis are both back in the outfield. Marrera can play right when not pitching. Hoel is hoping a fourth outfielder emerges.
“That’s going to be huge because we’re going to need another outfielder when Marrera pitches,” the coach said.
The pitching staff will be headed by Marrera, but after that it’s up for grabs, in a good way.
“I really like our pitching depth. We have eight pitchers that all look about the same,” Hoel said. “They’re all twos and threes. They’re all going to get their opportunities.”
Reschke, left-hander Mike Rizzo, Eric Benson, Mike Mullaney, John Uba and Mike Meyers should earn starts at some point, with the bullpen sorting itself out as the season progresses.
Deolitsis is expected right near the top of the order. The all-conference selection swiped 31 bases last spring, and advancing runners and stealing bases will once again be the Hornets preferred style of offense.
“Offense is the big question mark,” Hoel said. “We have good speed and we run really well, but you can’t steal first. We’ve got to swing the bats and get on, then hit and run and bunt guys over.”
Downers Grove South and Willowbrook figure to be South’s main competition for a conference crown. In order for the Hornets to defend their title, it’s going to take everyone on the team coming through when their numbers are called.
“We’ve got 19 kids and we’re looking for all of them to contribute,” Hoel said. “We need all 19. It’s definitely going to be a team effort.”
Meet the Hornets
Coach: Paul Hoel
2012 record: 29-6 (18-2 West Suburban Gold)
Don Buonavolanto jr. SS/OF/P
D.J. Deolitsis sr. LF
Mike Marrera sr. P
Matt Reschke sr. P/CF
Jerry Stoltz sr. 2B/SS/3B
Next game: 10 a.m. Saturday vs. Willowbrook
90.6 South's stolen base percentage last spring. The Hornets stole 116 bases and were caught just 12 times.