Matt Glupczynski knows very well the rich history of the La Salle-Peru baseball program.
He played for the Cavaliers and spent the past nine years as an assistant coach under Bill Booker.
Now Glupczynski takes over as head coach with hopes of continuing the program’s tradition.
“You can go far back to when Huby Sarver was here, this program has been one of the top programs in the area,” Glupczynski said. “It’s well coached, the kids are well disciplined and the game is played the right away. All I hope is that I can continue that.
“We might not win every game, but I want our opponents when they see us on the schedule to know they have a good, solid team coming to play.”
Glupczynski takes over a team that reached the Class 3A state championship game last season, and with five starters back, the Cavs have high expectations.
“We set a goal every year, and that’s to get back to the state championship game,” senior Adam Happ said. “We don’t want to set our standards lower than that. We have high expectations every year, and (a state title) is the main goal. You want to be on top at the end of the year.”
In their quest for a title, the Cavs will rely on a solid core of Happ, fellow seniors Kyle Jenkins, Bret Storm and Austin Smith and junior Noah Lamboley.
“We have guys who were on the team last year who are going to provide good leadership,” Jenkins said. “We’ll be able to teach the other guys who weren’t there last year. We understand how big an opportunity it was last year, and maybe we can get even more this year.”
Lamboley and Jenkins will anchor the pitching staff.
Lamboley, a NewsTribune First-Team All-Area pick last year, went 9-2 with a 0.95 ERA as the team’s No. 2 pitcher. Jenkins missed some time on the mound with injury last season, but went 2-2 with a 3.23 ERA.
Lamboley injured his pitching hand last weekend and Glupczynski said it’s unknown how long he will be out.
Other players who will log innings are Smith, Happ, Alex Duncan, Erik Gens and Andres Martinez.
“We have a lot of guys who can throw,” Jenkins said. “We have a lot of new kids coming up who are going to have to make a name for themselves, step up and pitch well.”
Happ returns to play shortstop and second base, Jenkins will again see time at third base, Lamboley is back at shortstop and Smith, who was the DH last season, can play any of the infield spots and is in a battle for the starting catcher position with Max Strickland and Justin Guerrero.
Also seeing time in the infield will be Gens at third base, Kaleb Pytel at second and Duncan, Matt Jaegle and Kyle Rothrock at first.
Storm returns to patrol center field. Competing to flank him are Duncan, Martinez, Pytel, Nate Burris and Tyler Brovelli.
“The defense is going to be good,” Happ said. “I think we’re strong. We have a lot of guys returning up the middle.”
The batting lineup is still up in the air.
The Cavs lost lead-off hitter John Hiester and 3-4-5 hitters Cody Booker, Levi Ericson and Casey Huebbe.
Smith is L-P’s top returning hitter with a .364 average last season. Happ hit .323 with 26 runs and 19 RBIs in the No. 2 slot, while Storm hit .318 and Jenkins hit .297.
“I think we’re going to have to rely on our bats a little bit,” Happ said. “We have a lot of speed in our lineup. That’ll be helpful. We’re working a lot up in the cage on contact hitting. I don’t know if we’re going to come out and swing with a lot of power, but if we put the bat on the ball, good things will happen.”
The Cavs hope it all adds up to not only another deep postseason run, but also a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division repeat.
Glupcynski expects Ottawa, Geneseo and Streator to also contend in the conference.
“We want to repeat in the conference and I really think we can do it,” Storm said. “We have a good team. The conference is hard, but if we play baseball (like we can), we’ll be right up at the top.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.