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DGN, DGS, Westmont baseball coaches evaluate talent in summer season

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:04 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:34 a.m. CST
Caption
(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
Downers Grove South first baseman Zach Radde stretches to make the catch on a foul ball in a summer playoff game against Hinsdale South on Thursday. Radde is one of several players South head coach Darren Orel said could see more playing time in the spring.
Caption
(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Downers Grove North's Jack Warwick gets the force out at second base in a summer playoff game against Hinsdale South on July 16. After a solid summer season, Warwick could be in the mix for playing time as a middle infielder next spring.

When the high school baseball season ends in the spring, most teams switch right to the summer season. A looser atmosphere during the summer where the stakes aren't quite as high lets coaches toy with their lineups to see which players could fill which roles come next spring. Here's what the summer season brought for Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South and Westmont.

Downers Grove North

No matter what time of year or what personnel he has on hand, North head coach Chad Isaacson wants his players to improve each day and likes for his teams to be solid defensively. He saw both this summer.

"We've got a pretty good mixture of kids, and we don't have it all figured out, but we are learning on a daily basis," Isaacson said. "One thing I noticed is we're pretty consistent right now at gloving the baseball, which is always a key piece."

While he uses the summer more as evaluation period, Isaacson said players can play well enough to earn the inside track at for starting positions in the spring. Pitcher Ryan Cantlin, who threw the final five innings of a 4-3, eight-inning walk-off win against Plainfield East in a summer regional quarterfinal, and middle infielder Jack Warwick have impressed. Middle infield is an area where positions need to be filled after the graduation of Joe Provenzano and Ray Greco.

"He's a guy that has stepped in and stepped up for us," Isaacson said of Warwick. "He's going to be a senior next year and he's put the right foot forward to be in a position to have an opportunity next year."

Downers Grove South

Wins and losses aren't as important to South head coach Darren Orel as surviving the summer season without serious injuries to players.

Despite putting less emphasis on victories, the Mustangs won the Hinsdale South regional and advanced to the summer state quarterfinals.

Still, Orel is most interested in using the summer to build for next spring.

"For me, it's about leaving the summer with an idea about what you have, what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are," the coach said. "To me, if we leave the summer and have an idea of what we've got for most of our starting positions and no one's hurt, then I think it's a successful summer.

"A guy like Zach Radde, he was kind of a backup middle infielder for us as a junior, I moved him to first base and ... I feel he's getting better at it," Orel said. "I think he could a big plus for us there."

Westmont

The Sentinels had virtually no down time between their run to the Class 2A state finals on June 6 and 7 and the start of the summer season on June 9, and when they took the field in the summer they looked a lot different.

The bad news was that players like Adam Berg, Tommy Franczak, John Kelly, Zach Moran and Greg Pietrzak, who all played key roles on the run to state, graduated and moved on. Standout shortstop Charlie Donovan was limited to one game by a hand injury, and Joe Donovan concentrated more on travel ball and showcases. The positive side to that is it gave Westmont head coach D.J. Cocks a chance to look at other players in the program.

"We had a competitive schedule and I told them before the summer that we might not win many games and that I just wanted them to get better," Cocks said. "I wanted them to show me what they can do. I want to see if they are versatile. I want them to play more than one position, so I want them to find a second or third position."

Cocks got the chance to play returning varsity players who are expected to log even more innings next spring (Anthony Alessi, Austin Loehman, Kevin Melvin, Andrew Rosol) alongside younger players coming up through the program (Adam Doll, Jackson Fischer).

"A couple guys showed me something," Cocks said. "I think we added some pieces that are going to help us a lot. Anytime you do that, it's a success."

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