GLEN ELLYN – Having lost a large and talented senior class, Glenbard West baseball coach Andy Schultz took a little bit of a different approach with his team this summer.
Along with playing 14 games, the Hilltoppers also mixed in a few practices and scrimmages as a host of new faces got their feet wet at the varsity level.
"We graduated so many players after the spring," Schultz said. "This summer was really for giving guys opportunities and to evaluate and to do some teaching. We didn't play every day, we scheduled some practice days and intrasquad days so we could work on some things.
"Overall, it was a good summer. We had a different roster each day, but we gave some guys opportunities to show what they could do."
Glenbard West finished 7-5-2 on the summer after losing 5-4 to Oak Park-River Forest in the opening round of the summer playoffs.
"It felt like a regular season conference Glenbard West vs. Oak Park game," the coach said. "It was pretty high intensity. We just made two or three mistakes which cost us runs. That's a big area we have to continue to get better in, making the plays and not giving teams extra outs.
"I wanted to play Oak Park; I wanted to see where they are at and where we are at. I felt we matched up well except for the couple field miscues."
The Hilltoppers will return a handful of position players that played a lot in 2013, starting with catcher Will Simoneit. Billy Becker, Jack Sojka and Alex Martenson also are back.
Pitching will be the team's greatest question mark as the squad lost virtually the entire staff.
"We don't have a senior [pitcher] with varsity experience coming back," Schultz said. "We will be pretty much all juniors. We need guys who can come in and throw the ball over the plate. We still don't have a guy coming up who will strike out 12 or 13 guys so we will have to make the plays and catch the ball."
One pitcher who made an impression this summer is junior Justin O'Neal. Fellow juniors Zach Lutz and Jake Rosley also stood out.
"Justin was one of the main pitchers on the sophomore team last year," Schultz said. "He got to throw every week for us [in the summer] and he really threw the ball well. I definitely see him as one of our three conference starters."
The Hilltoppers are now approaching is an important offseason as many of the positions on the field are still up in the air.
"We have a lot of guys competing and we will see what happens," Schultz said. "I've encouraged all of the guys who don't play a fall sport to play fall ball and to continue to get at-bats and work on their games."