Varsity baseball ready for redemption

Varsity and JV return from team bonding and tournament in Nashville to kick off season

Jack Soble

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Baseball season is underway, both in the major leagues and here at New Trier, and the Varsity and JV baseball teams kicked off their year with a trip to Memphis, Tennessee.

They had a mostly successful trip, going 2-1 in Varsity and 0-1 in JV, and off the field they had time to bond and work towards establishing the cohesiveness that is vital to every baseball team.

Head Coach Mike Napoleon, in his 14th season as the varsity leader, was not shy in praising “The Land of Elvis’s” hospitality. “The fields we played on were great and Rhodes College let us practice on their field,” he said.

The players, like Senior Outfielder Matt Kann, enjoyed a productive trip as well. “Memphis was good. We had a few games, but the point down there is to come together as a team and make sure we’re all pulling in the right direction and I think we did a good job doing that.”

According to Napoleon, in addition to going bowling, paintballing, and disc golfing, they spent a rained out day at the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop. But now that they’re back in town, it’s right back to business, working towards achieving their goal: a state championship, their first since 2009.

“We all believe that’s an achievable goal,” said Senior Catcher Dylan Horvitz. “Our whole team had busy offseasons working hard and getting stronger and better.”

New Trier is looking for redemption this season, after making it all the way to the super sectionals but falling to St. Charles North, by a score of 4-3, in walk-off fashion. One game short of the state tournament. For that reason, Senior pitcher Jack French says that the team has a chip on its shoulder.

“So far we have worked hard and have gotten better every day, but we still have a lot to prove to the rest of the state and to ourselves. We haven’t proven anything yet.”

Horvitz agreed, saying their play thus far has been “inconsistent.”

Napoleon, however, feels confident in his roster. “We have six position players back from last year’s super-sectional team, along with 3 pitchers with experience. Our expectations are high with a lot of 2nd and 3rd year players on the team.”

Joining that group is 6’4” first baseman, Junior Anthony Calarco, who was on Varsity last year as a sophomore but dealt with injuries for much of the season.

“I’ve gotten to know the team pretty well, we are a very tightly knit group,” he said.

Along with Calarco, the Trevians’ lineup remains potent. Kann hit .352 with 32 RBIs. Horvitz was and still is the team’s power bat, setting the bar for home runs with six. Senior Outfielder Eric Nicholas is their speedster, with 21 steals.

The pitching is strong as well, although it’s missing its ace from last year, left hander Ben Brecht, who graduated. French, Senior Closer Jack Falk, Senior Starter Peter Schuldt lead the staff this year. Falk was dominant last season, going 8 for 8 in save opportunities and posting a nearly impeccable 0.68.

“I’ve coached a lot of these guys for the last four seasons, summers included. I know them very well. I feel they are very comfortable with me,” said Napoleon. He felt that on the Memphis trip they had some “nice family bonding.” Horvitz agreed. “It was a great opportunity to create some team chemistry.”

In addition to team bonding, the Trevs have been working to get better, “whether it be 5:45 AM practices or lifting,” said French. The team believes they’re on the right path, but as Kann put it, “We’ve had some big wins but a couple losses too, We’ve got a lot of work left to do but everyone on this team believes we have what it takes.”

All indications are that they do, and they have an itch for redemption that can push a team over the top.

Kann said it best: “After our loss in the super sectional last year, everyone’s doing everything it takes to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

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