Summer league high school baseball provides players a chance to gain experience and coaches to find out who could develop into impact varsity players.
Lyons Township might have found a future ace in Mike Walsh.
The incoming sophomore has looked impressive in his first weeks against older competition. Walsh tossed a one-hit shutout on July 11 to power the host Lions to a 10-0 win in five innings over Fenwick in the opening round of the Fenwick Regional.
Walsh, who walked one and struck out eight, consistently baffled the Friars with a sharp curveball and sneaky fastball.
“It was one of the better games I’ve thrown,” Walsh said. “I was happy with the performance, obviously.
“I’ve been pitching real well as of late, but I think I still have more in me.”
He’s not alone.
“We see a lot of potential in him,” LTHS coach Kevin Diete said. “He’s a got a real sharp, biting, 12-to-6 rotation curveball.
“You could tell he was getting hitters off-balance and he’s doing a really good job. (There is) a lot to look forward to with him and we’re really excited to have him right now and proud of what he’s done so far and hopefully he only gets better from here.”
Walsh was called up for the state playoffs in May but did not see action. He is no stranger to varsity competition, however, because he was a member of the LTHS swimming team that won the state championship last winter.
“That was kind of really good to get me acclimated into the lifestyle,” said Walsh, who started during the regular season but did not swim in the postseason because of the team’s great depth. “With us winning state, there was a lot of pressure situations for me in the swimming pool as well as on the baseball diamond.
“But it sort of helped me get used to those situations. Then we played a lot of top teams in travel ball, so you kind of got to know how to pitch in those pressure situations and I thought that’s helped a lot.”
Walsh, who likes to use his curve to set up his fastball, faced only one minor jam against Fenwick, which started only two regulars. Ethan Gerstner led off the second with a walk and went to second on Adrian Ruiz’s two-out single. But Walsh retired Tom Schneider on a grounder to short.
Walsh got plenty of support from his hitters. Six Lions combined for nine hits off three Fenwick pitchers. Third baseman Matt Phillipp, designated hitter Nick Hughes and first baseman Connor Pasko all had two hits, with Phillipp scoring twice and Hughes and Pasko each driving in two.
Justin Sosa took the loss for the Friars (1-9-1), who committed five errors. Sosa gave up three runs, only one earned, and four hits over four innings before LTHS took advantage of four errors to score seven runs in the fifth.
“We’re really not that bad,” said Fenwick coach Dave Hogan, who noted Sosa and junior catcher Mike Cerceo were the only regulars from last spring’s sectional championship team on hand. “Sosa failed to tell me he pitched four innings Saturday for his travel (team). He felt bad that he couldn’t have done better.”
Hogan said he expects the Friars to be solid next spring.
“We’re going to be awfully good,” Hogan said. “(The summer) is just a learning experience.
“We knew there were going to be a lot of mistakes, which I will meet with them individually (about) first week of school and (tell them) here’s what we’ve got to work on.”
The future appears bright for the second-seeded Lions, who have four regulars back from a team that went 21-10 and figure to have good depth on the mound with Walsh and fellow sophomore Grant Leader joining seniors Phillipp, Mike Courtney, Brendan Pugliese and Ian Delleman.
“This year I think we’re going to be even stronger than last year,” Walsh said. “We’ve got a lot of great guys on our pitching staff. We’re all tight-knit and I think it’s going to be a really good season.”
Walsh and Leader both picked up wins on July 14 as the Lions (17-6-2) won twice to capture the regional championship on their home field.
Walsh hurled three scoreless innings of relief in a 6-4 semifinal win over York, while Leader followed with a complete-game five-hitter to knock off Oak Park and River Forest 5-3 in the title game.
Hughes drove in three runs against the Huskies, including a two-run single in the fifth that gave LT a three-run cushion. Pasko had two hits and Wyatt Tawse had two walks. Both scored twice.
The Lions advanced to play in the Final 8 of the Phil Lawler Summer state tournament, a double-elimination tournament which began July 18. Plainfield South edged LTHS 3-2 in the quarterfinals, however, to close out the Lions’ impressive summer campaign.
“I’m just really proud of these guys for what they’ve done these past few days,” Diete said. “We’re stringing things together, getting timely hits, pitching well and playing good defense. We have a lot of young talent, which is promising for the future.”