By Marty Farmer
Some of Fenwick High School head baseball coach Dave Hogan's best moments have occurred in recent years.
Hogan, who surpassed 800 career wins at Fenwick last season, has guided the Friars to four straight regional titles and two sectional championships since 2014.
The Friars finished 24-13-1 with Chicago Catholic League White Division and regional titles last season. New Trier defeated Fenwick 8-2 in the Class 4A Lane Sectional final.
Despite that inauspicious ending in the playoffs, the Friars hope to continue their winning ways this spring.
The optimism appears justified considering Fenwick returns several terrific players, notably standout seniors like shortstop Alex Pup, first baseman/outfielder Jack Grace, catcher Mike Cerceo along with promising junior outfielder Lucas Kolovitz. Kolovitz, a three-sport athlete at Fenwick, can hit for average and power.
"Our bats will be very active this year," said Cerceo, who committed to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "We have a great crew of good hitters who will give opposing pitchers a hard time. Our fielding will be very well put together with a mix of returning starters and some new faces."
Pup hit .345 with a .415 on-base percentage last season. Grace, who was called up to the varsity his sophomore year, has become a prolific hitter. The Creighton signee batted .375 with five home runs and a .661 slugging percentage.
"I am very excited for this upcoming season," said Pup, who will attend the United States Air Force Academy. "We have a great group of guys and we all get along, which helps build team chemistry. We have talent all around the field so we expect to play well and win a good amount of games this year."
Tim La, Fernando Flores and Jack Polston are capable middle infielders, while Polston and Charles Wood could see playing time at third base. Seniors Tommy Hogan, Sam Kure and sophomore Will Hendricks will contribute in the outfield.
Seniors Joe Runnells and KJ Slepicka are the team's top pitchers. Runnells (DePauw commit) and Slepicka had a 2.78 and 2.81 earned run average, respectively, last season. Charles Wood, Danny Stein and Jim Groom lengthen the rotation.
"Pitching is always key," Cerceo said. "Our big gun is Joe Runnells; he always brings it. We will need lights out (performances) from all of our pitchers. When a fast inning happens defensively, the momentum will carry over to our bats."