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 and pitching staffs to see which players could fill which roles come next spring. That's precisely what the coaches at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South did this summer.
Red Devil head coach Jason Ziemer turned over control of the team to his assistants for part of the summer season as he stayed at home with his newborn daughter.
Yet even in a limited time with the team, the coach saw signs that the squad will be in good shape next spring despite having to replace several key pieces.
Chris Botsoe, who missed most of the spring with a fractured orbital bone that required surgery, returned for the summer. Botsoe, an incoming senior and University of Louisville recruit, figures to anchor a lineup that will see some significant changes in the spring.
Ryan Haff, Matt Muellner and Jacob White, three of the Red Devils' top four hitters among everyday players, have all graduated. Haff batted .396 and led the team with four home runs, 40 runs scored and 16 walks and was a big piece defensively at shortstop, but Ziemer has no reservations at shortstop moving forward.
"We had a junior last spring behind Haff, Ben Chapman, that defensively was able to play varsity ball," the coach said. "He's going to step right in and be fine. A junior, Jake Ryder, is going to compete at shortstop, so we're good there."
The pitching staff lost a trio of seniors – Charlie Banke, Austin Butler and Nick Senicka — who combined to throw the majority of the team's innings. Constructing a staff will be one of the primary tasks on Ziemer's plate come next season, but the summer provided big strides in that direction.
"The biggest question mark is pitching, it always seems to be, but we have a good number of arms and a lot of depth," Ziemer said. "I think we have 10 or 11 guys I'd feel comfortable throwing in a varsity game right now."
Head coach Paul Hoel has a very structured approach to Hinsdale South's summer season. He splits his squad into three groups of nine players and has two groups show up for games. Do that ensures a nearly equal amount of playing time.
"We got a lot of guys playing time and made strides next year going forward," Hoel said. "We learned a lot of things about guys we didn't know much about. That's why we have the three groups. Everyday you show up, you know you're going to play."
The Hornets ended up earning the No. 2 seed out of 17 teams at their own summer regional, and advanced to the championship game to be one of the final 16 teams playing in the playoffs. The team finished 19-8-3 on the summer.
"We have a young team and we learned a lot," Hoel said. "We saw a lot of good things."
Filling in the two middle infield positions after the graduation of shortstop Don Buonavolanto and second baseman Joe Oehmen shouldn't be much of an issue. Matt Marrera saw plenty of action at shortstop in the spring as Buonavolanto was hampered by injury. Nate Overmann showed he is ready to play up the middle.
"He's going to be a senior, and he had a really good summer," Hoel said of Overmann.
Varsity returners Anthony Nicholas and Tim Dziergas are likely to be the top pitchers next season, but plenty of depth emerged this summer in the form of David Dahms, Mike Zack and others. Alex Briscolino, Danny Mazzei and Zach Duffy also impressed over the summer, laying the groundwork for next spring.
"It was a positive summer," Hoel said. "The kids played hard. We're looking forward to next season. We're really excited about this group."