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Nazareth looks to take league lessons into playoffs

LA GRANGE PARK — In recent years, Nazareth baseball has followed a certain pattern.

Start out nearly perfect in the nonconference season, lose a few games during the East Suburban Catholic season and then get hot in the playoffs. Even the 2011 Roadrunner team that only lost seven games had a three-game losing streak in the ESCC.

So far, this year’s team is on track to follow that trend. The Roadrunners were 10-0 before their first conference game; and after losing both games to Carmel on Saturday, Nazareth fell to 2-4 in the ESCC.

“We just hopefully try to stay our course and continue to do what we believe in and in the long run just make sure that we’re ready when playoff time comes,” said Nazareth coach Lee Milano. “In the last four or five years for us in the playoffs, that’s been the case. You’re going to go through some times throughout the season where things become difficult and they’re not easy.”

Nazareth lost 3-1 and 8-6 to Carmel. The Roadrunners were tied in Game 1 before giving up two in the top of the seventh. Nazareth led 5-1 in Game 2, but the Corsairs gradually got back into the game and scored four in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead.

The Roadrunners also led 5-1 in the second game against Benet on April 24 before the Redwings came back for an 8-6 win. The close losses are tough to take, but the experience of playing in close games could come in handy later.

“In 21 of 22 games (entering Monday), we’ve given ourselves a chance to win late in the game,” Milano said. “That’s going to happen in the game of baseball. I don’t think the guys are frustrated at all. We talk about that a lot – that there’s going to be peaks and valleys through the season. That’s just the nature of the game, the nature of the conference.”

Individually, catcher Mike Stromberg continues to be a standout. The backstop leads the team in hitting. Tim DalPorto, Mike Noesen and Jake Bartels also have been filling up positive stat columns.

On the pitching side, Peter Minella took a hard-luck loss in Game 1 against Carmel, and Dan Kienzle has been a standout out of the bullpen.

“You’re hoping throughout the year that different guys step up, and that’s kind of happening,” Milano said.

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