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Boys Baseball: Laid Back Red Devils Off to Strong Start

Second-year head coach Justin Cronin's team recently returned from an unbeaten trip to Florida over spring break.

The baseball team has a different feel in 2012 than it did in 2011.

“Last year it felt like it was the seniors and the juniors,” infielder Sam Lucente said. “This year it feels more like a team.”

Lucente, a senior who was the hero of last spring, is one of only two regular starters returning from last season’s 15-21 team, second-year head coach Justin Cronin said. The other returning regular is junior pitcher Adam Dressler.

Cronin said he trotted out seven to eight senior starters every game last year. This year, the coach said, “We’ve got a healthy mix of juniors and seniors who are still competing for spots.”

The Red Devils returned this week from a three-win, no loss spring break trip to Tampa and beat Proviso West Tuesday to advance their overall record to 6-3. The team plays Willowbrook Thursday and has a double-header with Glenbard West Saturday.

Cronin said he was counting on having a sound defensive team.

“The thing that has surprised me a little bit is how well we’ve handled the bats,” Cronin said. “We’ve been able to score some runs.”

Pitching-wise, Dressler has begun the year as the Red Devils No. 1 starter “on paper,” Cronin said, but the coach is also relying on seniors Sam Burnett and Tom Bieber, who both got some pitching experience in 2011, and junior newcomers Basil Arain and Tom Conklin.

“We were hoping for very good things from them and right now it’s been very promising,” Cronin said of his junior pitchers.

Burnett agreed.

“They don’t seem to be feeling the pressure coming onto the varsity team.”

Senior catcher Jay Richards said the pitching staff, like Lucente said of the team as a whole, is a lot more laid back this year than in 2011.

“It seems like less of a ‘me, me, me,’ team; it’s more of a collective team than last year,” Richards said.

The 2011 Red Devils won one regional playoff game before falling to Naperville Central in the regional semifinals. Specific end goals for the 2012 team have yet to be set, Cronin said. He wants his guys to find their roles during these early-season games.

“Right now the focus is whatever these guys can do to make their team better,” Cronin said, proving that the Red Devils' laid back attitude flows from the top down. “We’ll sit down and hash out what we want to set as our goals, but a lot of it is putting ourselves in the best position to win baseball games and see where that takes us.”

The Red Devils varsity roster contains 10 seniors: Bieber (pitcher/first base), Brunett (pitcher/first base), Tom Delzenero (outfield), Michael Fikaris (infield), Peter Foley (infield), Eric Gnippe (catcher), Will Howson (outfield), Garrett Knecht (pitcher/infield), Lucente (infield), and Richards (catcher).

The remaining 12 players are juniors: Basil (pitcher), Justus Camalick (outfield), Conklin (pitcher), Dressler (pitcher/infield), Andrew Eck (pitcher/first base), Jared Eck (outfield), Joe Herr (outfield), Tyler Irwin (pitcher), Matt Silk (infield), Bobby Skogsbergh (infield), Tyler Ward (catcher), and Aaron Walsh (pitcher/outfield).

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