Sophomore pitcher Jared Novak summed up Benet’s season in a five-inning stint against Joliet Catholic on Monday.
After losing nearly their entire starting lineup from last season, the Redwings opened the season with four straight defeats before regaining their footing to win 15 of their next 23 games.
Called up to the varsity during winter workouts following a strong freshman season on the sophomore team, Novak endured his own struggles early this season until adjusting to the varsity and putting together some quality outings.
Ranked No. 3 by Prep Baseball Report this week, Joliet Catholic represented a formidable test for Novak. He walked the first two batters in the first inning, then settled down to pitch five solid innings in a 4-0 loss to the Hilltoppers in East Suburban Catholic play.
“I believe it was nerves, but I did settle in and felt more confident with all my pitches,” Novak said. “It was a good game and I think I pitched well coming off a rough beginning. I feel the next time I face Joliet Catholic that my nerves will be under control.”
Novak is one of three right-handed sophomore pitchers, which includes Connor Hincks and Chris Perry, that the Redwings (15-13, 10-7) are leaning on for innings this season, an aspect that bodes well for the future of the program.
“All three sophomores have had nice outings for us,” Benet coach Scott Lawler said. “Jared Novak pitched five strong innings against Joliet Catholic. He was nervous in the first inning but settled down and competed for five innings. I told our guys after the game to take some of those nerves out and build on it, then they can do some great things in the playoffs and in the future.”
Novak said he relies on three pitches – fastball, changeup and curveball – to attack hitters.
“As the season has gone on, I’ve felt more and more confident,” Novak said. “My teammates have been picking me up and having my back has been very helpful. Each game I’ve pitched has helped me get better.”
At the start of the season the Redwings’ main two players with starting experience were third baseman Jack Schneider and catcher Brandon Gorz. Since then, senior second baseman Paddy Hincks and rightfielder Aaron Staehely have become regular contributors in the lineup.
“Paddy has had a great year offensively for us,” Lawler said. “He’s really sparked our offense from the two-hole.”
The Redwings, who will play Oswego in a Class 4A Hinsdale Central regional semifinal on May 23, have welcomed the added production from Paddy Hincks.
“The key to how I’ve played as of late has been staying relaxed at the plate and making sure I’m getting good pitches to hit,” Hincks said. “I hit a lot of balls hard at the start of the year that just weren’t falling, so now it’s starting to even out.”