LEMONT – Spending so much time away from home this summer, Mike Papierski might not remember what the town of Lemont looks like anymore.
A member of the Team DeMarini 17U Koutnik team, Papierski recently spent a month on the road with tournaments in Ohio, Florida and Missouri and the Area Code Games tryouts in Indiana.
Last weekend, Papierski, who will be a senior catcher for Lemont this school year, was in Georgia for an event and will soon travel to Tennessee and California for the Area Code Games.
“It’s been crazy,” said Papierski, whose dad is one of the coaches. “The competition is why we do it. High school ball, especially summer ball, there are not too many good pitchers. Most of the time here we are seeing good arms. And we are a pretty good team so usually teams are throwing their No. 1 or No. 2 against us.”
Lemont teammate Jake Latz has been equally busy as a member of the Illinois Sparks. Tournaments in Kentucky and Georgia were sandwiched around the USA Baseball Invitational in North Carolina. In August, he will join Papierski in California for the Area Code Games.
“The summer has been great,” said Latz, a left-handed pitcher. “It’s been a lot of traveling and really busy but I’ve gotten a lot better from an experience standpoint. I’ve seen a lot better competition than what I’ve had in the past and that has made me better. I’m improving this summer because of what I’ve been a part of.”
A year from now, Latz and Papierski will be preparing to head to Baton Rouge together as both have committed to Louisiana State University. They will join fellow Lemont standout Ethan Pocic, who will be a freshman on the Tigers’ football team this fall.
“It was pretty much a coincidence,” Papierski said. “Jake went down there a week before (for a visit) and he told me he was committing. I waited for a bit (to decide) but him going there had a little bit of a factor.
“And now to have three people from Lemont going to LSU, I think that’s crazy.”
They had never discussed the possibility of playing together in college.
“I wouldn’t have really known anybody down there,” Latz said, “and now I’m going down there with somebody I’ve played with since 8 years old. It is definitely exciting.”
Papierski and Latz first met as members of the Lemont Braves. That team eventually broke up but they reconvened in high school.
“We went our separate ways but we always talked,” Papierski said. “Now we are pretty good friends and we hangout outside of baseball as well.”
Lemont won 23 games this spring, but Latz and Papierski hope to avenge their early playoff exit, a 3-0 loss to eventual state champion Joliet Catholic in the regional final.
“We are definitely up for it,” said Latz, who along with Papierski has been limited to one Lemont summer league game. “The feeling is still there from the non-seniors that we are looking for revenge. We want to get down there (to state). We have a good shot next year and hopefully it turns out well. I know we will be working hard for it.”