Playing against a tough schedule of East Suburban Catholic Conference opponents and an equally tough nonconference schedule, recent Marist grad Luke Sefcik is no stranger to facing uber-talented pitchers.

And, this summer, Sefcik has made the jump to collegiate summer ball as he prepares to head off to Central Michigan University.

Playing for the Southland Vikings in the Midwest Collegiate League (MCL), he’s adjusting quickly and putting together a productive summer.

“The biggest challenge at the plate is a lot more college guys know how to pitch,” Sefcik said. “High school guys may have a little more velocity, but they may be chucking it right down the middle. These guys know how to locate, pitching backwards, inside and outside. You have to stay consistent and stay within the strike zone.”

Competing at the MCL All-Star game on July 20 at Oilmen Stadium in Whiting, Ind., Sefcik helped the East squad to an 11-7 victory over the West team.

A 5’9”, 160-pound shortstop, Sefcik knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth via a bases-loaded walk.

The East team trailed 5-1 in the fourth but tallied 3 in the fourth, 4 in the fifth and 2 more runs in the sixth as part of an impressive comeback victory.

Sefcik finished 1 for 2 with 2 RBI and 2 walks.

Able to play the infield or outfield, Sefcik has settled in nicely at shortstop for the Vikings, including starting the All-Star game at short.

“Our shortstop went to a different league, so I’m playing short every day so far. That’s one of the biggest things going well for me,” Sefcik said. “I hit well at the beginning of the year. I’ve struggled a bit lately, but my fielding has really improved. It’s cool to be named an All-Star.”

After Sefcik put the East up 6-5 with his bases-loaded walk, St. Laurence alum Kevin McCormick, a soon-to-be freshman at the University of Evansville, shook off some early struggles with a big hit.

Extending his strike zone a touch, the left-handed hitter went out and blooped a 2-run single just out of the reach of the West’s second baseman in shallow centers.

The bloop hit extended the East’s lead to 8-5 in the fifth.

“With two strikes, you try and see the ball deep into the zone,” McCormick said. “I stuck with my approach. I wasn’t going to change it because of one day with some strikeouts. It happens to everybody, happens to the best of us, so stick with your approach.”

McCormick was the team leader in batting average (.411) and RBI (41) for the Class 3A third-place Vikings this season, earning All-State honors.

He’s playing this summer for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen under Coach T.J. Marik, a 2014 St. Laurence graduate.

McCormick credited Marik for helping him with improving his approach at the plate this summer.

“TJ has been helping with my timing a lot,” McCormick said. “Guys were throwing much harder, and their breaking balls were good. Facing competition like this, I’ll see guys like this in college. There’s no better time than now to face them, especially with a wooden bat. That makes it even more challenging. When I get to camp at Evansville, hopefully, I can hit the ground running.”

Also playing for the East squad was Evergreen Park grad Patrick Doran, batting fourth in the lineup and playing first.

He went hitless in the game but enjoyed the chance to take the field.

“Baseball is a tough game. You’re not going to have your best stuff every day,” Doran said. “Keep the same approach and how you prep, and you’ll succeed more times than not.”

Doran is playing this summer with the Southland Vikings.

He played this past spring for North Carolina Central after spending a year at South Suburban College and the College of DuPage.

The start of his junior season was cut short as he dealt with COVID for three weeks around New Year’s. When he came back healthy just in time for the season opener, he was raring to go.

“With COVID, it was the worst three weeks of my life,” Doran said. “I was really sick. I was still home when most of my buddies were back on campus. That took a toll on me mentally, not just physically. I bounced back pretty well, and the work I’d put in paid off.”

Doran played in 38 games with 33 starts.

North Carolina Central canceled its baseball program after the 2021 spring season. Doran is still looking for a school to which he can transfer.

St. Laurence alum Nick Heiden (Webster University) picked up the win for the East team, throwing a scoreless fifth inning with 2 strikeouts.

Other area players competing in the All-Star game included Mt. Carmel’s Josh Houston (RBI) and Gino Gazzillo (single), Br. Rice’s Jack Guzek (strikeout in inning pitched), St. Laurence’s Mike Laudando, St. Ignatius’ Will McManaman (3 strikeouts in inning pitched) and De La Salle’s Billy Le Pretre (strikeout).