In the past, Nick Alfini and Connor Kopach were foes when they met on the baseball field.
Alfini pitched for Downers Grove South and Kopach batted and played the infield for Downers Grove North as they played on different sides of the rivalry.
This summer, they are teammates with the DuPage County Hounds in the Midwest Collegiate League. Several of their teammates, including Christian Bokich and Adam Dressler from Hinsdale Central, also played high school ball in the West Suburban Conference last spring.
"I knew Kopach because of North-South, we play them all the time, and I had heard of the other guys, and they're great guys," Alfini said. "It's kind of cool, being local and still playing together a year older."
The MCL is a summer league for collegiate players and offers them the chance to hone their skills against stiff competition. Alfini and Kopach both agree that the chance to play in the league has been an exciting one.
"It's a great experience," said Kopach, a Westmont resident who played in 49 games as a freshman at Southern Illinois University this spring. "I've met a lot of new people, and it's been really cool getting to play with other people and see how they play the game."
Alfini saw significant action on the mound this spring for St. Ambrose University, an NAIA school in Davenport, Iowa. He went 3-1 in 11 relief appearances and finished with a 3.00 ERA. He earned a starting nod from Hounds manager Sean Osborne earlier this summer.
"It's cool getting a chance to start. It's a different experience," he said. "Working longer, you have to pace yourself. I developed a circle changeup so it helped being a starter I could work on another pitch."
Playing predominantly against NCAA Division I players has also benefited Alfini as he looks to earn a larger role with the Bees next season.
"It's been a different transition playing with and against a lot of [NCAA] Division I guys," he said. "You have to be sharp with your stuff. It's been a fun experience. I've learned so much stuff. It's been cool."
Kopach, who played in the MCL All-Star game July 9, came into the summer with two main areas where he wanted to improve.
"Bunting and stealing," he said. "Bunting because I didn't bunt well in the spring and stealing because I only had nine this spring and they want me to do more [at SIU]."
Alfini came to league after working with Osborne at The Perfect Swing in the winter and asking about summer league opportunities. SIU coach Ken Henderson found a spot for Kopach in a summer league in Pennsylvania, but Kopach wanted to stay closer to home this summer and picked up a spot in the MCL. From his experience this summer, Alfini would consider another go-round in the league next year.
"It's cool because for a summer league it's really intense, so you get that game intensity and game speed," Alfini said. "That's what I like about it."