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Michigan-bound sophomore Donovan having big-time impact for Westmont baseball

'Special talent' helping Sentinels turn it around after slow start

Westmont sophomore Charlie Donovan swings at a pitch against Latin on Thursday in Westmont. Matthew Piechalak –
Westmont sophomore Charlie Donovan swings at a pitch against Latin on Thursday in Westmont. Matthew Piechalak –

WESTMONT — Much of the action for high school baseball players takes place away from the spring season.

That was the case for Westmont sophomore Charlie Donovan, who committed to play college ball at Michigan last August.

“They saw me at a showcase and they really liked me, and I fell in love with the school,” Donovan said. “It felt right when I went there for a visit, so I decided to commit.”

There’s a reason the Wolverines jumped on Donovan.

“He’s a special talent,” Westmont coach D.J. Cocks said. “In the time I’ve been coaching, he’s one of the most talented kids I’ve coached. He’s a special ballplayer. The sky’s the limit for him. I cherish being able to coach a player like that.”

All facets of the game seem to come naturally to Donovan, a left-handed hitting shortstop who also pitches for the Sentinels.

“He’s well-rounded,” Cocks said. “He can fly on the bases, he’s got a cannon for an arm, he hits for average and he hits for power. He’s a five-tool player and that’s something special. And you could say the sixth tool he has is the intangibles. He’s got a lot of baseball smarts.”

As good and consistent as Donovan has been this season, baseball is a team game and it has taken a team effort to rebound from a 4-3 start. Heading into Monday’s home Interstate Eight Conference game against Coal City, the Sentinels’ record stood at 15-4 overall and 6-2 in conference.

Jean Pietrzak, Zach Moran and Greg Pietrzak, Westmont’s top three starting pitchers, were a combined 11-3 on the season following a doubleheader sweep of Noble Street Charter over the weekend, each with just one loss on the record.

“I’ve been exceptionally pleased with out starting pitching,” Cocks said. “Those three guys have been huge for us, and almost every time out it seems like they throw a complete game for us. They’ve been unbelievable for us all year.”

All three have been good away from the mound, too. Moran drove in four runs as the Sentinels topped Noble Street 14-4 and 9-2. Jean Pietrzak plated two runs in the second game.

As catcher, Robert Kokoszka has handled the pitching staff well. As the No. 2 hitter he has batted in a key spot all year. He had two RBIs in the second game Saturday. John Kelly drove in three runs in the Game 1 win.

From Cocks’ perspective, the success after a rough start is an extension of the 2012 season.

“I would definitely say the experience factor has been huge for us,” the coach said. “Last year, these guys were all new to the varsity game. It took time to adjust, but we started playing better at the end of the year. The experience factor and not having to adjust has been huge for us.”

The Sentinels will be relying on that experience factor during a big week. After a two-game series against Coal City, they are scheduled to face Peotone (4:30 p.m. Wednesday) and Reed-Custer (4:30 p.m. Friday) in a pair of conference home games before facing rival Lisle in a two-game conference series Monday and Tuesday. All those games are important to the conference race and the look of the postseason.

“I told the guys, the regional seeding happens Monday,” Cocks said, “so these games are big as far seeding goes.”

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