Due to weather related issues, in some areas there may be delayed deliveries of your Monday issue of the NewsTribune.
If road conditions are severe enough, your delivery person may not be able to deliver your NewsTribune at all on Monday.
In this case, your Monday edition will be delivered with your Tuesday newspaper.
We ask you to be understanding for the safety of our carriers.
OTTAWA — Last year, Ottawa baseball coach Don Heaberlin picked up his first regional championship — and the program’s first since 1999 — and the 2013 team has hopes of another regional title with a lot of talent coming back.
The Pirates have 20 players on the roster with 10 letter winners back from last year’s squad that will be joined by a junior class that was Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division champions last season.
The Pirates finished 26-12 in 2012 with All-American candidate and University of Illinois recruit Michael Hermosillo leading the way.
Hermosillo, the team’s center fielder, is entering his third full season at the varsity level.
In 2012, the unanimous All-NIB 12 West selection batted and area-best .511 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs to go along with six triples.
“What can you say about Michael and what he brings to the team?” Heaberlin said. “Michael is Michael. He brings so much to this team. One of our strengths I think will be our offense, but I foresee teams pitching around him, especially if we start out slow, but then you put someone on base who can turn a walk into a double or triple.”
Also back for a third season at the varsity level is Brazon Wheeler, who returns at second base.
Wheeler moved to the top of the batting order last year and allowed Kyle Wallbaum to move into the cleanup spot behind Hermosillo.
Wheeler will once again bat near the top of the Pirates lineup and will try to improve upon his .373 average, five doubles and 20 RBIs.
Wallbaum excelled behind Hermosillo at the plate, hitting .393 with 11 doubles, five triples and 22 RBIs while manning the hot corner for the second year in a row.
“This is a very talented and deep team that gives us many options,” Heaberlin said. “Obviously, we have to replace Buddy Ahlstrom, who had a monster year (at shortstop), but we could move Kyle (Wallbaum) over and move someone to third who hasn’t played there at the varsity level. It might just be see who steps up in these early games. We have not had a year where we have not had a single day outside yet so some things will be decided once we finally do get out there.”
Wallbaum (4-0, 2.91 ERA in 2012) also will look to be one of the top three pitchers this season ace Jonah Morris.
Morris was an All-NIB 12 West selection with a 7-2 record and an ERA of 1.37 last season. The Concordia University of Chicago recruit also had 82 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in the regional championship game.
Those two will be joined in the rotation by Marquette Academy transfer Tony Gondolfi, who was 5-4 with a save and a 2.48 ERA for the Crusaders during their run to the supersectional last year.
Heaberlin hopes a deep pitching staff and a talented offense adds up to a conference title and a deeper postseason run for the Pirates.
“With those three at the top, we are going to be every bit as good as we were last year with our top three,” Heaberlin said. “Our 3-4-5 hitters are going to be as good as anyone around also. L-P and Streator the past years had those type of hitters, but they have graduated and one of the goals is to win conference and advance further in the postseason than we did last year. We have to stay focused and play each game. It worries me a bit that we could play our first game and not practiced outside at all, but I keep telling myself neither has anyone else really.”