VILLA PARK – Matt Pizur and Dom McDonnell are the only two regulars that didn't graduate from Willowbrook's spring baseball team.
Despite that, the summer season went well enough to expect that the rebuilding process might go smoothly for the Warriors.
Willowbrook won three playoff games this summer before losing 7-2 against Nazareth in the Fenwick regional final on July 17. Making it to the final 16 in the state and getting a no-hitter from junior Cam Zunkel against Montini in the regional semifinal showcased what the inexperienced team is capable of.
"We started out the first week seeing who we are," coach Vic Wisner said. "We'd win one, lose one and then we went on a three-week tear where we didn't lose a game."
The varsity newcomers played well, but it was the returning players that were blocked by seniors in the spring that stood out as well. The Warriors graduated eight regulars who hit .340 or higher. Seniors Mike Petruzzi, Trey Jones and Luke Schuemer have been among the group to step up in their place.
"We're doing all those little things and they're seeing it's paying off for them," Wisner said. "They're at the field, they have to be there an hour beforehand and they're there two hours early. I just can't keep them away from the field. For me it's been my most rewarding summer, watching these kids grow up and everything they do. Sometimes summer can be a drag, it gets old and it gets warm. These guys are just a special group. They work really hard."
Cam Zunkel is the younger brother of recent graduate Tyler Zunkel, who was a two-way player for Willowbrook and plans to play for College of DuPage next spring. Cam Zunkel said it has been easy to transition to varsity ball, even if just in the summer version.
"It's been a lot of fun," the junior said. "We just stepped right in. We practiced with [the varsity] sometimes during the spring season."
Zunkel's no-hitter against Montini was part of a 10-0 win in six innings.
His class and the current seniors had success on the lower levels as well. Wisner is hoping that translates to varsity success in the spring.
"These guys were really good as freshmen and really good as sophomores," Wisner said. "I know that doesn't always mean anything, but they expect to win. I think that's a big part of it. The foundation that our previous classes have laid, these kids expect to come out and win."
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