North baseball began the 2019 season hoping to make history with back to back state wins.
The Tigers look to build off of last season’s success with the 12 returning athletes to try and repeat as state champions.
“We got hot last year at the perfect time,” senior catcher Greg Budig said. “All it takes is a few good arms along with some hot bats and almost any team can make a deep run.”
The Tigers will look to balance their game this season between hitting and pitching. Although the pitching will be heavily leaned on late in games, and as the season goes on, the Tigers could make that really work out.
According to coach Darlington the team has built some strong areas. “Our team’s pitching is a strength this season,” Darlington said.
The Tiger’s season began on Mar. 22 against Geneva. Taking an early two run lead in the top of the third, the Tigers answered back scoring one run in the fourth and two in the fifth. In the end the Tigers finished 3-3 in a tie to start the season.
“Everybody is getting hot at the right time, and the team is finally coming together,” senior second basemen Noah Mazza said.
The Tigers headed to Georgia Mar. 25-27 for their tournament hoping to have a strong leadership from their seniors.
Due to weather delays, though, the Tigers were not able to play their first game against Monroe Area
“The weather didn’t affect us,” senior third basemen Brandon Hutson said. “[It]just gave us a little break to recover our pitching.”
However, the Tigers were able to play out the next two games. On Mar. 26 the Tigers played Social Circle in a back and forth game. Senior center fielder Cameron Kissel homered in the third inning giving the Tigers an early lead, In the end, though, the team fell short 6-7.
“Our hitting has been a big improvement for us,” senior Pitcher Josh Fleming said. “Treating our bullpen like we’re in the game is a big factor.”
The next day didn’t get better for the Tigers. They were shut out 8-0 when the Tiger’s bats went cold after coming off an eight hit six run performance the game before.
“In Georgia we learned a lot as a team, and it humbled us I think,” senior pitcher Dylan Szajkovics said. “Now, we’re confident but not cocky, and we just know if we play how we are capable, we can beat any team.”
At that point in the season the Tigers had won their last three games giving them a cushion within the conference.
“We just [have] just been playing as a team,” Brandon Hutson said. “Hitting the ball very well.”
the Tigers last loss came on April 8 against Joliet West 3-0. Ever since then the Tigers’ pitching and hitting balanced out equally as they scored 40 plus runs in nine games.
“We have improved our play and have had success with the way we have been playing,” senior Sammy Valdez said. “As the season gets harder we have to be prepared.”
The Tigers hosted the Lockport Porters on May. 4 in an important game. The Porters were ranked ninth in the state, and the Tigers were looking to get back to that spot. Great pitching from their seniors and hitting lead them to a victory as Budig had an RBI single and Kissel doubled. The Tigers won 3-2.
After a rough start, the Tigers have pulled together with an 11 game winning streak .
“Prior to that series we were really struggling offensively and defensively, but in that series something changed,” Valdez said.