Rebuilding Glenbard North baseball uses summer to get jump on spring season

CAROL STREAM – For a Glenbard North baseball team that lost all but one player from its 2013 starting line-up, this summer held a little extra importance.

Plenty of new faces got their opportunity to impress coach Rich Smelko and his staff during a six-week stretch that saw the Panthers finish with an 11-9-3 record after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Lake Park in the second round of the summer playoffs.

“We had a pretty decent summer,” Smelko said. “Defensively we were pretty solid and our pitching was solid. There are just some adjustments we need to make at the plate.”

As was the case this past spring, the strength of the 2014 squad should lie with the pitching staff, which is the one area that has experience. That group is headlined by Matt Albin, who worked five scoreless innings against Lake Park, and also includes returners Kyle Crites and Luke Greenberg. Chris Ruiz, Eric Orze and Nick Barrett, the later being an incoming sophomore, should also receive opportunities.

“With Albin and a couple of the other guys on the mound, we should have a pretty good staff,” the coach said. “And I think we’ve made some big strides defensively.”

What could ultimately decide how much success Glenbard North has next spring is the offense, as pushing across runs proved to be an issue in the summer.

“We weren’t able to scratch enough runs (in the summer),” Smelko said. “I think it’s a little bit of everything, a lot of these guys are jumping up a level, there are fundamental things we need to work on and there are strength issues.”

One newcomer who did impress is Barrett, who batted third in the Panthers’ order and also plays shortstop in addition to pitching.

Now, with the summer campaign brought to a close, the focus shifts to the upcoming offseason as plenty of jobs are still up for grabs.

“We were able to see who we think will compete for an everyday job in the spring,” Smelko added. “We had some questions answered but there are some spots still up on the board.

“We will do some things in the fall and winter in terms of hitting and lifting and get ready for March.”