Baseball: Committee approach solves Notre Dame pitching dilemma
Niles, IL 5/24/12 Notre Dame's boys baseball team hosted the Johnsburg Skyhawk in the second round game of the 3A regional tournament. Notre Dame's Ryan Czachor (3) advances the runner on base with a sacrifice bunt. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:56AM
Nelson Gord wasn’t thinking about wins and losses after his first season as Notre Dame’s head coach ended with a 4-1 loss to visiting Grayslake Central in a Class 3A regional final on Saturday.
The Dons (14-23, 5-11 ESCC) probably would have notched several more victories if they had not been without senior mainstays Kevin Stahmer and Keenan Connelly during the first five weeks. The Niles nine sorely missed third baseman Stahmer’s slugging, shortstop Connelly’s line-drive hitting and the solid leadership of both injured veterans.
Stahmer tore an ankle ligament in the final second of a sectional wrestling victory that secured his second straight state berth. After recovering and regaining his timing at the plate, Stahmer led the Dons in conference play with a .347 average, .956 OPS, 10 runs, two homers and 11 RBI. He batted .286 overall.
“At first, I didn’t have confidence, but then I started seeing the ball well,” said Stahmer, who will attend Cornell with fellow wrestling standouts Colton Kelly and Scott Smith. “Some things didn’t go as we hoped, but we had a lot of outstanding guys.”
“I’ve known Kevin since he was 12. He’s as good as it gets as a person,” said Gord. “We would love to have had him the first half of the season. But even when he was injured, he was getting here at 5 a.m. and doing everything he could to support his team and get back.”
Gord could not fix his team’s lean hitting, especially in the power department. But he aggressively addressed the Dons’ lack of dominant hurlers by leveraging the staff’s depth. Over the last two weeks, he used a different pitcher every inning to constantly present different looks to opposing hitters.
The mound-committee approach worked like a charm when Notre Dame defeated St. Viator 6-3 on May 14 and 3-1 on May 16. Danny Hyde, Nick Fiorito, Connelly, Danny Nagode, Zach Koziol and Tony Marcellino each threw scoreless frames in the first game. Stahmer (2B, 3B, 3 RBI) and Ryan Czachor (2 H, 2 R, 2 SB) juiced the offense.
Again using seven pitchers in the return match, the Dons held the Lions to one unearned run. After Czachor doubled to score Matt Walsh, Stahmer belted a two-run homer to right field
Notre Dame remained stingy in its 2-1 regional semifinal victory in eight innings over Johnsburg (15-20) on May 24. Marcellino, the last of the Dons’ eight pitchers, got the win on pinch hitter Sean Pavel’s deep sacrifice fly.
Veteran lefty Charlier Jerger set the tone with a strong first inning. Stahmer, seldom used on the hill, worked through wildness to limit the sixth-inning damage to one run.
It was the only game that Pavel, hit on the wrist in the Dons’ previous game, did not start at first base. Bobby Regal and Nick Pieruccini each singled before executing a perfect double steal to set the table for Pavel.
Notre Dame mustered only two hits against ace Mark Ash (8-4) of Grayslake Central (28-9), the top seed in its home sectional. The Dons committed four errors.