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Coach optimistic about prospects for Woodridge baseball squad

4/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — Last year, the Woodridge High School baseball team finished 19-8 overall. In the Portage Trail Conference County Division, the team was 12-2 and ended as the league co-champions. Head coach Dennis Dever said his team is looking to improve on that performance.

“I think if we do what we did last season, we will be disappointed,” he said. “We are confident that if we show up to play every game, we will be tough to beat. I am pretty optimistic about the year that we can have.”

Dever said the key strength of this year’s team is its varsity experience.

“We will be very experienced as we return eight starters and 10 lettermen,” he said. “We have a solid one-through-nine batting order and pitching depth.”

According to Dever, Woodridge is stocked with upperclassmen on the mound, giving the team plenty of quality pitching options.

“We are still determining who will be the main starting rotation and who will make up the bullpen. It will be a two- to three-week process until we figure it all out,” he said. “Senior Kevin Kelleher and junior Mike Seminatore have the best stuff so far, with junior Tom Finegan and senior Chase Radovic not far behind. Juniors Christian Owens and Mike Walter have thrown well in their pitching sessions so far and will definitely contribute positive innings.”

A pair of underclassmen also should play key roles on the pitching staff, the coach said.

“The two biggest surprises in camp have been sophomore left-hander Jackson Taylor and freshman Preston Clark,” he stated. “They will both get opportunities early to help the team.”

In the infield, Dever said, several starters return from last season.

“Chase Radovic is starting at first base and will see playing time at designated hitter. Sophomore Jackson Taylor will also see some time at first base,” the coach said. “Christian Owens is our starting second baseman. Tommy Finegan is our starting third baseman. Michael Walter will transition from first base last year to the shortstop position. Preston Clark plays shortstop when Michael pitches, and he plays third base when Tommy Finegan pitches.”

Outfield is “a definite strength” of the team, Dever said.

“We return all three starters in Anthony Yacobucci, Justin Whitely and Austin Fite,” he noted. “They’re used to playing with each other and they communicate well. They’re a good, solid outfield. They’re all seniors, and they play the game the right way.”

In addition, Dever said, the team features a trio of backup outfielders who will look to contribute this year and are ready to take over next year after the seniors graduate.

“Juniors Andrew Syx and Mike Seminatore and sophomore Jackson Taylor will compete for playing time behind the three talented seniors,” he said. “All three get work in practice and occasionally in the games. We’re going to rely on them at different times this year, and I think their future is bright in the outfield.”

According to Dever, the team has looked “pretty solid” on defense, with senior Tommy Morehouse anchoring things behind the plate.

“We have a really good catcher, and he kind of holds everything together for us,” the coach said.

Dever, who is in his 15th year as Woodridge’s head baseball coach, entered the season with a career record of 256-141. He said this year’s squad has as much ability as any team he has coached.

“This is a very tight-knit bunch, and they work hard,” Dever said. “They do everything I ask them to do. They are confident in their abilities, and they are getting more and more confident with every inning they get under their belt. This is a very talented group, and I think the sky is the limit for them. If we can keep the distractions to a minimum, this can be right up there with the best teams I’ve ever coached.”

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