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Wildcats start season swinging hot bats

WEST CHICAGO — Plenty of positives emerged for the West Chicago baseball team during the initial stages of the 2013 season.

Fighting bad weather like every other team in the area, the Wildcats kicked off the campaign with a trip to Jacksonville, Ill. where they were able to squeeze in three games before the snow hit.

The squad won its season opener by a 9-6 margin over TF South March 22 before losing 5-4 to Peoria Notre Dame and 9-8 to Jacksonville the next day.

“When we left Sunday morning, there were already two inches of snow on the ground,” said West Chicago coach Dan McCarthy. “We missed most of it. They ended up getting a foot of snow. We were fortunate to be on the road.”

In the win over TF South, Antonio Solis picked up the victory on the mound after coming on in relief of Mike Zajac, who allowed just two earned runs.

West Chicago then made its return to the field last Thursday and defeated Tinley Park 5-1. Zajac again pitched well, allowing no earned runs while striking out seven. Solis added a scoreless frame.

Along with the work of Zajac, another early bright spot has been the offense.

“We’ve got two guys (Brian Koester and Matt Wenz) who are hitting .600 right now,” the coach said. “Now obviously that is in limited at-bats but overall, our hitting has been very good. Our walks-to-strikeouts ratio is pretty good and we are staying disciplined at the plate.

“Early in the year, when it is cold out, the pitchers have the advantage but we’ve hit the ball surprisingly well.”

The Wildcats should receive a further boost this week with the return of Billy Pearson, the team’s expected No. 2 on the pitching staff. He was scheduled to pitch in Jacksonville but was scratched after experiencing soreness in his arm during warm-ups.

“He pitched an inning in a JV game against Tinley Park and he threw a good inning,” McCarthy said.

Next up for West Chicago is a matchup against Benet on Friday night at Benedictine University as part of the 2013 DVC-ESCC Challenge.

That game will follow Naperville Central vs. Joliet Catholic at 4:30 p.m. The Wildcats softball team is also playing Nazareth at 6 p.m.

The proceeds of the Challenge will be donated to the David DeJesus Family Foundation. DeJesus is an outfielder with the Chicago Cubs. His wife Kim, who grew up in Wheaton, will throw out the first pitch.

“We are setting up a little minor league event,” McCarthy said. “There will be three fan events going on in three different innings, there will be a raffle going on and t-shirts are being sold. The kids have been working hard for it.”

West Chicago will open up DuPage Valley Conference action on Monday against Glenbard North.

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