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Leaders emerge as Roadrunners pack summer with leagues

LA GRANGE PARK – Given the typically cold Chicago spring, summer is the time for baseball teams to play as many games as possible.

Nazareth coach Lee Milano has his team playing in multiple leagues and tournaments to get the Roadrunners in game situations that they won’t see again until the spring season starts.

“The summer has been excellent,” Milano said. “We’ve been able to see a lot of different players in game situations. You can see how all the players react.”

The Roadrunners played in the Suburban Chicago Connie Mack Baseball League, an 18-and-under wood bat league, against north suburban schools for the second year in a row, and Milano helped orchestrate a new grouping of summer teams against more local opposition. Nazareth is playing Fenwick, Leyden, Oak Park-River Forest, Riverside Brookfield and St. Joseph. The teams are playing varsity and JV doubleheaders Monday through Wednesdays.

In addition to those two leagues the team has traveled for tournaments on weekends, including one at Northern Illinois University in the first weekend of July.

“It’s been a really productive summer for us so far,” Milano said. “There’s so many different things to work on in the summer because you’re at such a (time) disadvantage in the spring.”

Some of the Roadrunners are playing with travel teams in addition to time with Nazareth, but even those players are typically only gone on weekends. Milano is proud of the team’s depth, and absences only open up spots for other players.

Among the most impressive Roadrunners have been varsity returning seniors Peter Minella, Brandon Gipson and Drew Dunker and newcomer juniors Matt Flach and Matt Wilson.

“Some of these kids have 80 plate appearances during the summer because they’re there all the time,” Milano said. “You can play all you want in the summer, but I think the focus really has to be on focus and learning.

“The third week of March is the first time we get on the diamond and it’s our first game. I don’t think there’s another sport in high school that gets put at such a disadvantage leading up to their season. We have to play summer baseball to see what our kids coming up are able to do on the diamond and to be able to put some work in.”

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