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West Athletic Feature Story

By Randy Whalen

For the Joliet West baseball team, the math is simple. 

Having 14 seniors should equal a great season. 

This season is certainly off to a nice start as the Tigers are 3-1 through their first four games. That included a trip to Southern Illinois to kick off the season and an 8-5 victory over an always-good Wilmington team on Tuesday, March 19 in the home opener. 

In the win over Wilmington, Parker Schwarting slugged his first high school home run on any level and was named the "Rockstar of the Game." The senior first baseman's solo blast, which led off the second inning, triggered an 8-run outburst in the frame. 

"When Parker was a freshman, he was 5-foot-9, now he's 6-foot-4," Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. "He was a tight end on our football team and will play football in college at Chadron State College in Nebraska. He's been hitting the weight room and he's done well. I was happy to see him get that one."

So was Schwarting, who has hit homers before, just not in high school. 

"I haven't had one of those in a while and it was my first home run in high school," he said of the clout to right field. "With the wind blowing out to right, it felt good off the bat, so I was watching it and enjoying it. I'm happy that I started the rally."

Schwarting and his fellow seniors plan to enjoy this season.

"We came out hot and our bats were smoking in the home opener," he said. "The end goal is for us to get to state but we just have to take it game by game. Still, this season just feels good."

In the Wilmington game, the Tigers were outhit 8-to-7 but sent 12 batters to the plate in the second and got all their hits in that inning. Junior right fielder Ryan Sobun smacked a two-run triple to right and seniors Owen Young (double), Jimmy Anderson (double), and Tyler Moore (single) each had RBI in the inning.

The Wildcats (2-1), who had won their first two games by identical 15-0 scores. scored twice in the sixth and three times in the seventh. Junior Kyle Farrell, senior Cade McCubbin, and sophomore Zach Ohlund all had two hits, while senior Reid Juster jolted a pair of RBI for Wilmington. 

Senior Juan Rico got the win with six strikeouts, a walk, and a hit, in the first three innings. Fellow senior Casey Tyrell also pitched three innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. Junior Ryan Lasson hurled the final inning as Joliet West used most of its players in reserve roles later in the game.

"It was my second time out pitching this season," Tyrell said. "There's a lot of room to improve but it felt good. 

"Getting to state is definitely the goal. But we also want to win an undefeated (Southwest Prairie) Conference championship. We have 14 seniors so that's a big help. We all want to do something and play a role."

The season opened on Friday, March 15 with a 5-1 win over host Belleville East. Rico pitched four shutout innings, with seven strikeouts for the win. Senior James Love had an RBI and also came in for a five-out save with a trio of strikeouts. Anderson had a home run and three RBI. 

The next day, Saturday, March 16, Joliet West went 1-1 with the 10-9 win coming against the No. 13 state-ranked O'Fallon. In the second game, the Tigers fell by the same 10-9 score to Rochester. Young was the hitting star of the day, with four hits four RBI, and a pair of home runs. Love laced five hits had two RBI, including a homer, and picked up the save on the mound. Sobun pitched four innings and had four strikeouts, while junior Nate Consalvo clubbed three hits and had four RBI.

The Tigers are back in Southern Illinois this weekend for four scheduled games in three days, starting on Friday, March 22, at the Future Champions Sports Complex in Jacksonville. There they plan to get more experience, have more fun, and get more wins.

"We've got to give guys opportunities to see what they can do," Karczewski said. "That keeps all the guys hungry. We could be 4-0, we were one pitch away but couldn't close the door (against Rochester).

"But we have a good group with three guys who have been on the varsity for three years (Cael Karczewski, Rico, and Young), and two guys (Anderson and Love) that have been on all four years. It's going to be a good year."