Baseball: Two Leyden seniors looking sharp in summer
Leyden shortstop Mike Szopinski (right) has looked sharp after a good junior season during which he was held back some by injuries. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:13PM
FRANKLIN PARK — More than anything else, coach Rob Hamann is using the summer baseball season for Leyden as a changing of the guard.
“For the new seniors, it gives us a chance to see how they will step into their new roles,” Hamann said. “Some of those guys will now have to become leaders. It’s not as intense during the summer as it is during the regular season, so it’s a great chance for them to start getting used to a new role.”
High school baseball players often make their biggest improvement between their junior and senior seasons. Playing during the summer can be very important in making that happen.
“Junior to senior is a big year,” Hamann said. “There often is a lot of physical development. The summer can give them confidence and allows the players to see where they’re at.”
Two seniors who will be counted on heavily next spring haven’t disappointed during the summer.
Shortstop Mike Szopinski has looked sharp after a good junior season during which he was held back some by injuries.
“He’s having a very good summer and is one of the guys who is stepping up as a leader,” Hamann said.
The Leyden coach also has been pleased with senior pitcher Ivan Nevarez, who very likely will head the starting rotation for the Eagles next spring.
“He is throwing a little harder and developing his arm strength,” Hamann said. “He also has been working on his change-up, which will be an important pitch for him. It’s important for him to keep on throwing. The increased arm strength will help him work deeper into games, which is something we’ll definitely need from him next season.”
Along with Nevarez, junior pitchers Eric Whittle and Niko Quezada, a pair of right-handers, are benefitting from playing summer baseball, Hamann said.
“They’ve been good and not so good, but the most important thing is that they are getting the taste of what to expect next spring,” Hamann said, adding that he also has been pleased with the play of junior second baseman Mark Stephens.
The Eagles have compiled a .500 record in 10 summer league games.
“I don’t pay much attention to records during the summer,” Hamann said. “We usually play doubleheaders; the varsity players first and then the JV. Some schools only have a varsity team, so our JV guys also are playing against some varsity teams.”