Entering his 34th season, Fenwick baseball coach Dave Hogan has 696 career victories, seventh on the all-time career wins list in prep baseball state history. The Friars' veteran manager will soon get his chance to chase down the 700-victory mark and beyond despite several game cancellations (bad weather) delaying the start of this season.
The Friars (presumably) will finally open with five home games this week against Jones, Leo, Immaculate Conception, Morgan Park and Kenwood. The following week (April 1-5), Fenwick will be in Orlando playing against teams from around the country at the Disney Wide World of Sports Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
"We're heading down to Orlando on Easter Sunday," Hogan said. "It's always a fantastic trip for us. We'll play teams from New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio."
Upon returning from the Sunshine State, the Friars will commence their annual battle in the brutally tough Chicago Catholic League, facing teams like Mount Carmel, St. Laurence, Brother Rice, Providence, Loyola and St. Rita during the rest of April.
"The Catholic League is always extremely challenging," Hogan said. "We take turns beating up on each other, but I think we can be very competitive this season."
Despite the loss of 15 players to graduation, notably Ryan Fitzgerald (.455 avg.) and Joe Patzelt (26 RBIs), Fenwick returns plenty of talented players ready to take on a daunting schedule.
Third baseman Paul O'Toole, who drove in a team-high 28 runs last season, and shortstop Gino Cavalieri make up a stellar left side of the infield. Kevin Claffy will hold down second base. According to Hogan, first base is a "positive logjam" with Ted Rogozinski, Zach Laskiewicz and Vince Napolitano all in the mix.
"Paul and Gino are very talented players," Hogan said. "They both can hit for average and power. Our three guys at first base can also really hit the baseball."
Rogozinski could serve as a formidable designated hitter. Liam Cahill, Jim Krecek and Tom Planek are solid infield reserves.
Fenwick appears stacked behind the plate as well with Brian Keegan, Bobby Hogan and St. Laurence transfer Justin Rodriguez all vying for playing time.
Rich Lasek, Kristian Meyer and Mike Nowicki will patrol the outfield, right to left. Hogan is another capable outfielder.
On the mound, Coach Hogan will turn to a plethora of pitchers, including Kyle Pullia, Cal Laird, Drew Smith, Jake Kinsella, Jim Madormo and Dan Marquez. For good measure, 6-foot-11 lefty Stu Nezlek is another option lurking in the bullpen. Pullia fanned a team-high 59 batters in just over 50 innings of work last season.
"I don't see any weaknesses on this team," Hogan said. "I think we're pretty solid at every position. Some years, I'll look at one or two positions and think, 'Oh boy,' but I like this group."
Fenwick hopes to improve on its 2012 campaign which included 20 wins and a second-place finish behind De La Salle in its Catholic League division. The Friars fell to Whitney Young 3-0 in a Class 4A regional semifinal last season.