Losing a trio of seniors to graduation who had been in the lineup since freshman year, Evergreen Park sophomore catcher Sam Rogers wasn’t sure what to expect this year.
Maybe the young players would struggle. Maybe it would take some time to adjust to the varsity speed.
Well, off early returns, Rogers shouldn’t have worried too much.
Taking down Eisenhower 9-1 on April 2 in South Suburban-Red action with a flurry of hits, host Evergreen Park (EP) improved to 7-1, 2-0.
“After seeing the talent we have on the team through our first few games, I feel like we can go pretty far,” Rogers said. “Our pitching has been good; our defense is coming along; and our hitting has been solid. It’s a little bit of everything.”
As a freshman, Rogers earned the starting catcher’s spot. Now with a season of experience under his belt, he’s looking to take a big step forward this year.
Rogers’ RBI single up the middle brought sophomore Nolan Bruce around from second base to open the scoring as EP went up 1-0 in the first.
For Rogers, his confidence could be his biggest improvement.
“I’m feeling really good hitting. I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” Rogers said. “I tried to impress too much last year, but my mind is clear. I’m doing it for the team.”
Colin Janes scored on an Eisenhower error in the first as EP went up 2-0.
The Mustangs scored a run each in the third and fourth before blowing up for 5 more runs in the fifth.
Up at the top of the lineup, Bruce (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI), Janes (2 hits, 2 RBI, 2 runs) and junior Billy Miller (2 hits, 2 runs) powered the offensive outburst.
Batting leadoff, Bruce said he always wants to get things going with a quick run. He played on the sophomore team as a freshman.
“I’m really excited for the year,” Bruce said. “I knew it would be a challenge, but every time out there, I’m trying to do my best. We want to get on base, put the ball in play and do it as a team.”
In his second varsity season, Miller said the lineup has plenty of potential.
“It’s our mindset hitting,” Miller said. “When the top of the order makes an out, we come back to the dugout, start talking and having fun. You go up the next at-bat and just forget about it.”
Miller was a staple at second base as a sophomore but moved to shortstop to replace four-year starter Declan Smyth (North Central College).
With fellow returnees Rogers and Karlton Carpenter, Miller is trying to help the newcomers adjust.
“We want to show them the ropes,” Miller said. “We want them to keep their cool and keep their confidence up. That’s something I’m working on and learning, too.”
Junior southpaw Michael Schulte earned the win for EP, allowing a run on 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts in 4 innings.
Juniors David Ewert (2 IP, 4 strikeouts) and Kevin Crivellone (1 IP, 2 strikeouts) closed out the victory in relief.