By Jon DePaolis
A commonly used proverb promoting optimism is that hope springs eternal. In baseball parlance, this means the start of every season ushers in the possibility of doing something great.
But for the Sandburg baseball team, mere hope may not be necessary. Eagles coach Jim Morsovillo, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the team, will have the luxury of leading a squad that returns several players – including the entire starting infield – from last season’s sectional championship team that finished 23-8 overall and 10-3 in the SouthWest Suburban Conference.
The Eagles defeated Lincoln-Way Central in last year’s Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional title game, before falling to Edwardsville, 11-3, in the super-sectional.
“We are excited about the senior leadership on this team and hoping the juniors buy in and follow along with the legacy the seniors have created,” Morsovillo said.
The start to Sandburg’s season was delayed when last Saturday’s game at Shepard was canceled because of frigid temperatures and a dusting of snow. The Eagles will officially open 2018 at home this Saturday – weather permitting – with a doubleheader against Moline.
Chief among Sandburg’s returning players is senior shortstop Branden Comia, a four-year varsity starter who was selected to the IHSA All-State team in 2017. Comia, a University of Illinois recruit, hit .420 with six home runs and 13 doubles last season.
Also back is senior third baseman Andrew Tenison, a Lewis University recruit who hit .350 with 23 RBI and 27 runs scored. Tenison also displayed good plate discipline, drawing 23 walks.
At first base is Seth Masters, a University of Illinois-Springfield recruit who batted .310 with 18 walks in 2017. Rounding out the returning infield is junior Tommy Windt.
Other key returning players are senior catcher Ryan Hampe, a University of Illinois-Chicago recruit; and infielder Matt Kocinski, who plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Manning the mound for the Eagles’ will be a starting rotation led by a trio of seniors including Notre Dame recruit Evan Tenuta, who started 11 games last year while going 4-3 with 44 strikeouts. Also back is Scott Stemmons, who went 3-2 in five starts with a 2.50 overall earned run average, and Erik Herold, who was 2-0 in two starts and had one save, and recorded a 1.21 ERA with 16 strikeouts to just eight walks.
Newcomers to keep an eye on include Ryan Leland, a junior pitcher and first baseman; Nick Skrabis, a junior pitcher and third baseman; Jimmy Rybarczyk, a sophomore outfielder; and Brian Adams, a junior outfielder who transferred from Marist.
Overall, Morsovillo likes the makeup of this year’s team. His senior-dominated team has an amazing work ethic and is very coachable, he said.
“We will have depth at many positions and constant competition for outfield spots,” he said. “We had a great run last year, and the seniors learned a lot last year about what it takes to make the next step.”