Bright spots in tough season shine way forward for Maine South baseball
The Maine South High School baseball team's 5-27 record doesn't reflect the troubles it overcame or the experience it's gained to propel it forward.
The team lost its top two pitchers, Joe Gabel and Dan Touhy, to injury early on, and the duo combined to pitch just 26 total innings this season. They were replaced by Luke Hinkamp and Alex O'Malley, who pitched admirably despite always matching up against their opponents' best throwers.
"It was very difficult in our conference to throw number three and four (in the pitching rotation) against one and two," head coach Bill Milano told North Cook News. "But those two guys did a heck of a job for us."
Despite the challenges they faced, the Hawks came out of the season with some memorable moments. They had a walk-off 7-6 victory over Elk Grove in which they scored all of their runs in the final two innings, and they also played No. 4 sectional seed Evanston extremely tightly, losing 12-11 in the playoffs.
The Hawks also averaged nine runs per game over their final five games of the season, showing a marked improvement.
"The players started believing in their abilities," Milano said.
This year's squad was led by third-baseman Declan Griffin, who batted .409 with 18 RBIs and had 19 runs scored, all of which led the team. He also led the Hawks in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and was the only member of the CSL All-Conference Team from Maine South. Just a junior, Griffin will be back in the fold again next season.
The Hawks also relied a lot on Jaiden Ortiz, whom Milano described as a "super utility player." Ortiz played third base, outfield and even did some pitching. He won the Maine South Team Player Award and batted over .300. The senior will continue playing at Oakton Community College.
Maine South also has a lot to build on for next season, which is perhaps the greatest success of the year, according to Milano.
"Many junior players received good experience while playing in games this season: outfielders Joe Gabel, Torre Cecala, Will Brendza and Spyros Vaselopulos," he said. "Declan Griffin will be one of the top players in the state. Pitchers Joe Gabel, Justin Grigus and Alex O'Malley will be solid on the mound."