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Fenwick baseball coach Dave Hogan had the sprinklers hooked up at the school's ballfield a month early this season. The decision paid off as the Friars took advantage of the unusually warm weather with multiple practices last week and were even able to get in their season opener, a game that has been postponed many times in the past due to rain and/or snow.
Trailing 4-0 at the Priory on Saturday after Willowbrook broke open the first inning with a triple, double and back-to-back home runs, the Friars rallied to come away with a 6-4 victory. It was a good start for Fenwick, which won the White Division of the Chicago Catholic League last season and finished 21-15 overall. Though they lost Tyler Sewall to graduation - now at the University of Dayton - the Friars have several starters back from last season's squad. Catcher Drew Schroeder, who went 3-for-4 in the opener and drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, returns as does Jack Forde (third baseman), Ryan Fitzgerald (shortstop), Joe Patzelt (second baseman), Sam Ainsworth (designated hitter), Nick Johnson (outfielder) and Mike Atkinson (outfielder).
Fitzgerald blasted a solo homer in the third inning, and Forde struck out six batters in four innings. Junior Kyle Laird, Hogan's No. 2 pitcher, fanned five batters in relief.
Other seniors for the Friars this season include Scott Ryder (outfield), Jim Sweeney (outfielder), Matt Toohey (first baseman), Matt Stein (infielder), Mike Sullivan (outfielder), Andy Kinsella (pitcher) and John Hayes (pitcher).
Hogan has a solid junior group that is also fresh off winning the Catholic League. Paul O'Toole (third baseman), Brian Keegan (utility), Vince Napolitano (first base), and Mike Nowicki (outfielder) head up that crew.
"The great thing about this team is that we have the nucleus of the hitting attack back from last season," said Hogan, who enters his 32nd season as Fenwick's skipper. "That, combined with a talented junior group and deep pitching, should make us extremely competitive."
Hogan, who was named Catholic League Coach of the Year last season, is eighth on the career win list in the state with 676 victories.
The Friars will return to Orlando, Fla., in April to play in the Disney Wide World of Sports Tournament.
"We are looking forward to that tournament again," said Hogan. "Last season it was a little bit different situation where it was a relief because of all the bad weather we had to put up with to start the season. Luckily, this season the weather has been cooperating."
The Friars were scheduled to kick off this week with five straight games, including a matchup with Lincoln Park at the Priory on Saturday (11 a.m.).