Off a tough 5-14 season in the South Suburban Conference (SSC) last year, Evergreen Park senior Pat Doran knows the Mustangs can turn things around this year with their strong senior class and influx of young talent—it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

And the Mustangs’ game is coming together, as witnessed on April 19 against one of the SSC’s best teams when host Evergreen Park (EP) led for much of the conference crossover before losing to Lemont 5-4.

“I know we can compete in conference with the team we have,” Doran said. “We’ve got a nice mix with three players who have been up since they were young and a good core of younger players. The league can be ours if we keep pushing. We’ve got to grind it out.”

Doran, Declan Smyth (single, BB) and Dan Reynolds have been on the varsity together since their sophomore season.

A South Suburban College recruit, Doran had 2 hits and a RBI with sophomore Billy Miller adding 2 hits, including a double, 2 RBI and a run. Also contributing were Brandon Belle (2 hits, 2 runs) and Thomas Engraffia (run).

Sophomore C.J. Kompare delivered a solid performance on the mound, allowing 5 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits and 4 walks with 3 strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

Watching his sophomore slow down the Indians lineup, Evergreen Park Coach Mark Smyth came away impressed. Still, with a chance to claim a big win, he wanted his Mustangs to close out strong.

“Throwing a sophomore on the mound against Lemont and you battle them the whole way, there are a lot of positives,” Smyth said. “When you’re competing, you want to win a game like that. We had a good enough outing to get a win.”

With games canceled due to rain and snow this spring, EP has played well in spite of the weather. The Mustangs fell to 7-3 with the Lemont loss.

Leading 3-2, EP committed 2 errors in the fifth as Lemont went up for good with a 3-run outburst.

“We played really hard today but just came up a little bit short,” Doran said. “We’ve been playing well with some good games. Our defense struggled, but we’ve got a really solid defense. We’ve been hitting well, so I’ll trust our offense all day.”

Miller and Doran ripped an RBI single each in the second as EP took a 3-2 lead. Engraffia scored on a wild pitch in the frame.

Doran is savoring his senior season. After undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in November 2016, the senior southpaw was limited to hitting duties last season.

With a clean bill of health this year, he’s the Mustangs’ ace on the mound.

“My arm feels great, and my stick feels better than ever,” Doran said. “It feels amazing to play both ways.”

In his second season on the varsity, Miller is beginning to find his rhythm. After striking out a bunch in his freshman campaign, the second baseman tweaked his approach.

His RBI double in the sixth scored Belle from second as EP drew to within a run at 5-4. Kenny Rickert ripped a fast-dropping liner to right that Lemont caught to end the threat.

“I’m being more aggressive,” Miller said. “I struck out a lot last year, and I was scared up there. Beginning of this year, it was the same thing. These last three games, I started hitting. I’m not waiting. I’m swinging first pitch.”

Senior David Schulte threw 1.2 innings of shutout relief, allowing a walk, a hit and striking out two Lemont batters.