It’s been a long time — 1995, to be exact — since Shepard has won a conference championship in baseball.
While Richards is the favorite — again — to win the South Suburban Red, Shepard is a team to keep an eye on; that is, if the old adage that pitching wins championships holds true.
The Astros staff returns 12 wins from a team that finished 17-17 in 2012.
“The pitching staff is solid and experienced,” Shepard coach Frank DiFoggio said. “We have many options from both the right and left side.”
The Astros boast four quality starters in lefty Nick Medlicott, and righties Jeremy Dryier, Jack Garetto and Matt Schmeski.
Medlicott has pitched in big games throughout his four-year varsity career.
Despite a 3-7 record a year ago, Dryier has “ace” stuff, including a wicked slider.
Garetto isn’t overpowering, but throws strikes and is mighty crafty. And Schmeski fired a one-hitter during a 4-0 win over Brother Rice last season. DiFoggio is hoping to see more performances like that from the senior, who will also play outfield.
Offensively, Shepard returns one of the area’s finest hitters in Adam Samad, a SouthtownStar All-Area selection in 2012. The offense would greatly benefit from big seasons from Matt Scott, Cristian Araiza, Mark Albrecht, Bob Peterka and Dryier.
“We’re a veteran team that should come out of the gate quickly,” said DiFoggio, who has 14 of his 16 players with varsity experience.
H-F hopes to surprise
One team that doesn’t boast much varsity experience is Homewood-Flossmoor.
The Vikings, 22-12 in 2012, will need big seasons from senior outfielder Jacob Klemp, senior infielder Mike Kendrick, a transfer from Brother Rice, and senior pitcher Teddy Romas.
Watch out for sophomore pitcher Jeremy Orbik, who has the potential to be regarded in the same class as past H-F pitching greats John Ely, Aaron Hauge and Dan Lietz.
“Our defense should keep us in most games and enable us to compete,” H-F coach Todd Sippel said.
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