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Coming off an 11-42 season last spring under coach Eric Pinter, this year’s Eagles squad changed its practice habits and its approach in hopes of changing the on-the-field results.
“We’ve all been just one big unit and one big family that since Day 1 has said, ‘Let’s change this around,’” IVCC freshman catcher Alex Karban said. “We’ve been doing stuff differently. We just want a winning program. Coach has said some things, but a lot of it is our own drive.”
In the third season under Pinter, the Eagles are taking steps to rebuild the program and return it to its past glory.
“We just want to continue to improve,” IVCC freshman pitcher Brandon Urbance said. “We want to try to give ourselves a chance to win on a daily basis. We know the wins will come if we keep working the way we have been.”
The Eagles hope to show off their new style this season, which was scheduled to start in their season opener Wednesday at Joliet Community College. However, the game was postponed due to snow.
Instead, IVCC will have to wait until its home opener March 16 against Madison.
“We definitely want to get back into that winning culture,” Pinter said. “Last year we played in a lot of close games that just deflate you and are very frustrating. To know that you’re that close and that you worked that hard but fell a little short is tough.”
This year’s squad will be led by a core of returning sophomores but features 17 players new to the team, including 15 freshmen.
Returning this season is sophomore outfielder Evan Frantini, a Coal City graduate who was a first-team All-Arrowhead Conference pick last spring.
Also back is Hall alumnus and second baseman Scott Coutts, St. Bede graduate and catcher Austin Duffell, Ottawa graduate and outfielder Mark Hernandez, and SBA alumnus Nick Passini, who will move from third base to shortstop this season. Beyond the five is a group of newcomers eager to play.
La Salle-Peru graduate Levi Ericson is expected to play at first base, while L-P graduate Matt Dresbach or Streator graduate Teke Scudder will play at third base. In addition to Hernandez and Frantini in the outfield, L-P graduate Casey Huebbe also is expected to play.
One of a combination of Dresbach, Scudder, catcher/infielder Rodrigo Almeraz or first baseman Garrett Moon could serve as the DH.
The Eagles feature a deep and versatile roster as Karban can also catch, while Kyle Pikula could see time at second base and Arturo Espinoza at third base. Wes Hall, Jonathon Click and Anthony Rankin could all see time in the outfield.
In the lineup, Huebbe is expected to be the lead-off hitter, while Coutts will be in the No. 2 hole and Frantini in the No. 3 spot.
Ericson, Passini and Duffell are expected to hit in middle of order.
“My biggest problem — and it’s not really a problem — is we have so many guys who can hit,” Pinter said. “Finding the DH and putting guys into positions is going to be a welcomed problem for me.”
In addition to improving its defense, the key to IVCC’s success will be on the mound.
The team has just eight pitchers this season, and Pinter expects to keep them all on a strict pitch count.
Urbance leads the group, which also features Michael Sexton, Garrett Gruenewald, Chris Fields, Ericson, Rankin and Huebbe.
Sophomore Michael Murray may also pitch once he recovers from injuries sustained in basketball.
“The pitching is what is going to keep us in games,” Pinter said. “We’re going to need strong performances out of the guys whenever they come in, no matter the situation. With our defense and from what I’ve seen with our hitting, we’re pretty solid, so our pitching is going to be a real key in keeping us in games and giving us a chance to win those close games.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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