Baseball: Plainfield South defying expectations
By Dennis Nelson For Sun-Times Media April 17, 2012 6:18PM
Plainfield South shortstop Rick Salazar waits on the ball as Plainfield Central's Reid Mizerka dives back to second base. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2012 8:11AM
Not much was expected from Plainfield South entering the 2012 baseball season. Injuries to three starters heading into the season left the Cougars decimated.
Plainfield South was picked to finish fifth in the Southwest Prairie Conference, according to the SPC Report Preseason Coaches Poll.
Call it a foul poll. Entering Tuesday the Cougars stood at 10-5 overall, 5-1 and tied for first place in the SPC after winning two of three games from Plainfield Central and Minooka, both of whom were picked to finish in the top half of the league.
“I don’t know what is going on,” South coach Phil Bodine said. “We were bracing for a rough season, and we are playing really good baseball at this point.”
Lost for the season are shortstop Jake Roberts (Tommy John surgery), outfielder Brett Ritter (MCL) and first baseman/pitcher Victor Garcia (ACL).
“The thing about Victor and Jake is they are not just starters, but once-every-10-year kind of players,” said Bodine, who is in his fourth season with the Cougars. “I told the guys once the season starts, ‘I don’t want anybody to mention the injured players we have. We have what we have and we will battle every game.’ We are playing hard and with confidence.”
The injuries have forced reserves into starting roles and starters to move into new positions to fill gaps in the defense. So far, so good.
“We have guys playing who we never expected to play,” Bodine said. “They have been playing well.
Junior Rick Salazar, an All-SPC third baseman a year ago, has moved to short to fill in for Roberts, who has signed with Division I Costal Carolina in Conway, S.C.
“He has done a stellar job, so far,” Bodine said. “He has done everything we have asked him to do.”
Trevor Henderson and Jesse Small have filled in for Garcia and done well, Bodine said.
“Our pitching staff has been a real key for us,” Bodine said.
Leading the staff are sophomores Henderson and Enrique Perez, and senior Julian Clouse.
A traditionally slow starter in the league, Plainfield South won 11 of its last 12 conference games to finish second in the SPC a year ago.
Plainfield South started a three-game league series against three-time defending SPC champion Plainfield North (13-1, 5-1) on Tuesday at South.
Plainfield North beat Providence 5-3 Friday in New Lenox. That prompted a flip at the top of the Herald-News Top 10. The Tigers (13-1) are in the top spot and the Celtics (13-4) have slipped to second.
Young Wildcats streaking
Although it features just one senior, Wilmington is putting together a solid season under coach Chad Farrell.
After a slow start, the Wildcats have won five out of six and entered Tuesday 10-7 overall and 4-1 in the Interstate Eight. Pitcher/outfielder Jake Kozel is the lone senior on the Wildcats varsity.