MINOOKA – Under coach Jeff Petrovic, the Minooka Indians have advanced to the IHSA’s state final baseball tournament twice, finishing third in 2006 and fourth in 2012.
“All of these teams that we’ve been fortunate to coach, they’ve all had great pitching and great defense, and that’s what this team is made up of,” Petrovic said. “So when I look at this group as a whole, and I compare them to teams that we’ve had in the past, this team has a lot of the makeup that those successful teams have had. ... I’m very optimistic.”
The Indians’ pitching staff goes six deep with what Petrovic calls “really solid varsity pitchers.” Mitch Vogrin, who is entering his fourth varsity season, is the unquestioned ace. Senior Mitch Malone will be the No. 2 starter, and either sophomore Joe Butler or junior Tyler Paulsen is likely to start the other game in Southwest Prairie Conference series.
Trevor Maly will serve as the Minooka closer for a second straight season. Junior Miguel Ruiz should also pitch, though because Ruiz was injured during the summer, Petrovic is unsure of his role.
“This is my senior year, so we gotta strive for a better season than previously,” Vogrin said. “Our pitching staff is solid ... We’re gonna be a good group. We have a core group of hitters and I just have high hopes and am excited for the season.”
With the exception of first base, Petrovic is already pretty sure of who will be playing where behind his pitchers. Butler, senior Neal Tyrell and junior Jake Null are the starters at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively, and senior Tyler Desmarais is the catcher. The first-string outfielders, from left to right, are expected to be Vogrin, junior Kenny Walsh and junior Cristian Sanchez.
“This year, I’m pretty much staying in the same spot and playing the same position and batting leadoff,” Tyrell said. “I’m gonna need to get on base and be able to score runs for the team.”
Though Petrovic expects the “traditional favorites” – Minooka, Plainfield North and Plainfield South – to fight for the SPC title, another team entering the fray would not surprise him. Plainfield East, which like Minooka, advanced to the Phil Lawler Summer Classic in 2013, and Romeoville are threats, Petrovic said.
“Our conference has really gotten a lot better over the last couple years. I think that it was always looked upon as one of the weaker conferences around,” Petrovic said.
The Indians’ run to the Elite Eight of the Illinois prep summer season last summer, Petrovic feels, bodes well for them this spring. Less promising was the Indians’ showing in the 2013 IHSA postseason. They lost their opener at the 4A Joliet Central Regional to Joliet West, 4-1.
“We just throw it in the past and you look forward,” Vogrin said. “Obviously a state championship [is the goal], but we gotta take it step by step and win conference first and make a good run in the postseason.”