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Baseball | Sandburg rides strong pitching to impressive first half of season

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By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Focusing on the game in front of them has contributed to Sandburg’s success this season, which reached a notable point last week when a strong stretch of play enabled them to match its win total from 2022.

With a 6-4 road win over Joliet West on April 15, the Eagles concluded an unbeaten week in which they won four games to reach 12 on the season. Given that Sandburg entered this week with half its schedule remaining and already has as many wins as it had all of last year, that is encouraging.

Timely hitting and good defense have contributed to the cause, but strong and at times dominant pitching has consistently led the way. Over the Eagles’ previous 12 games heading into this week — a span during which they went 9-2-1 — their pitchers had allowed three or fewer runs in nine of them. During one six game stretch allowed that period they tossed two shutouts and allowed one run on four occasions.

“We had good pitching in a lot of close games,” Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo said.

The Eagles (12-3-1) got some clutch pitching at the end against Joliet West (8-5), but they got things rolling on a big hit by Jason Sullivan, who led off the game with a home run down the left field line.

Sullivan went 3-for-4 and scored two runs, and pitched 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts, three walks and three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings. He got help from fellow senior right-handers Ethan Highfill (2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, K) and Grant Tenuta (2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, BB, 3K).

Seniors Colin Kissane had a hit and RBI and scored a run, Victor Zaragoza had two hits and an RBI and Highfill belted a two-run home run and scored twice. Cole Vazzana had one hit and scored a run.

“It was fastball middle inside and that’s where I was focused, so I put a good swing on it and took it for a ride,” Highfill said of his deep fly. “It was my first homer of the year and it feels really good.”

Tenuta was was slated to start the SouthWeast Suburban Blue opener this week against Homewood-Flossmoor, so it is notable that he came in to close out the victory.

“It’s not usually the best thing when I’m in at the end, but we needed to get a win,” Tenuta said.

Earlier in the week, the eagles beat Stagg, 6-5, at home; TF South, 5-1, in Lansing; and Bradley, 4-3, on the road in an SWSC crossover. Crossovers count in the SWSC conference standings.

“Our pitchers and defense have carried us,” Highfill said. “It’s just been a better connection for the team. We are doing our best and have more team communication this year and have picked it up.”

Against Joliet West, sophomore center fielder Charlie Snoreck made a heads-up play on a ball that popped out of Highfill’s glove on a fly ball to left-center field. Snoreck snared the ball before it hit the ground and the Eagles turned the circus catch into a double play.

“Charlie was there to make the play,” Morsoville said. “It was a big play and kept our momentum. That could have saved a big inning because Joliet West is a good team.”

The Eagles finished 12-17 last season, and the team is enjoying its success as it looks to vastly surpass that number of wins.

“This has been the most fun I’ve had playing baseball,” Tenuta said. “Last year we started the season 1-7 and this year we’ve just gone out to have fun.

“Most of us have been playing together and have been friends since we were kids. We’re having a blast.”

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