CICERO – Progress doesn’t come quickly. That’s something Morton baseball is learning this season.
The Mustangs have shown huge improvement throughout the spring but missed out on a chance to grab a commendable third-place finish in the West Suburban Gold.
Willowbrook shocked Downers Grove South by taking two of three in the second-to-last conference series and took care of business Saturday in a doubleheader against Leyden to finish hot and leapfrog Morton for third. The Mustangs took two of three from the Warriors early in the conference season but couldn’t keep pace after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader at Addison Trail.
Still, Morton entered Monday’s series and conference finale in Cicero with a chance for a .500 league record and had fourth place locked up after finishing sixth a year ago.
“It’s definitely an improvement from last year,” said Morton coach Mike Casey. “It’s stepping stones I feel. We’re still young so next year would be a very promising year.”
Morton has eight seniors on the roster but just three senior starters. The youth of the team didn’t stall the team’s development.
Junior shortstop/closer Sergio Villalobos is healthy and playing well again after missing a couple weeks with a cut that required stitches on his left hand.
“His first game back was against Montini (May 4),” Casey said. “He struggled that day, but now he’s back in stride. He looks like he hasn’t missed a day.”
Villalobos, who earned the save in the 7-5 Game 1 victory against the Blazers, has been a key part of the pitching staff along with senior Eli McMahon. McMahon picked up the win against AT on Saturday. McMahon, Anthony Iniquez and Villalobos should make the Mustangs competitive in the postseason.
“Our pitching staff keeps us in every game so as long as we pick up the ball and hit for them we will have a chance to win,” Casey said. “I think we’re starting to put a lot of things together and we’re playing a lot better so it’s going to be interesting what we do in the playoffs.”
Morton closes the regular season on Thursday at Lyons Township. Regardless of what happens at the end of the year, the Mustangs have showed enough progress to build for next season.
“It’s just kind of cool to see the guys have some confidence,” Casey said. “They hadn’t won many games before and they’re starting to get a taste of what winning is like.”