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Ups and downs : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Ups and downs
Oswego baseball team wins 12 in Johnson's first year

by Christine Bolin Dascher


The Oswego baseball team went 12-21 overall under first-year head coach Mark Johnson, but that record would have been different if the Panthers were able to pull off the win in all the close games they were a part of.

Oswego lost six games decided by one run - four of which were in Southwest Prairie Conference action, where the Panthers went 5-16. Perhaps this is why Johnson called it and up-and-down kind of season.

"We started off searching for who could play what positions, made the revisions and solidified the lineup one through nine," Johnson said. "Toward the end of the year, I thought we were playing pretty good baseball, but we lost too many games decided by one or two runs by an error here and there."

The Panthers, however, did win four games by one run - three of which were in non-conference play. Oswego's season ended on May 26 in the first round of the Class 4A Plainfield Central Regional, when No. 15 seed Plainfield East topped the No. 17 Panthers, 13-5.

Waubonsie Valley ended up winning the Plainfield Central Regional, and Downers Grove South ended up beating the Warriors in the Oswego Sectional semifinal. Downers Grove South won the sectional title after the 10-1 victory over Plainfield North.

St. Rita beat Downers Grove South, 2-1, in the Crestwood Supersectional and was one of the Class 4A teams heading to the state tournament this Friday and Saturday at Silver Cross Field. The other three teams are South Elgin, Providence Catholic and Prairie Ridge.

As far as conference goes, Minooka won the crown at 18-13, followed by Plainfield North (17-4), Plainfield East and Plainfield Central (11-10), Plainfield South (9-12), Oswego East (8-13) and Oswego and Romeoville (5-16).

"Plainfield North, Minooka and Plainfield South were all ranked in the top 20, so (conference play) was a battle," Johnson said. "We fell short, but hopefully next year, we'll crack the top four."

The Panthers' first win under Johnson arrived in the second game of the season, when they beat Aurora Central Catholic, 9-1, on April 5. That was followed by the 4-3 victory in 11 innings against Sandwich on April 7.

Oswego did not get its first conference victory until it topped Romeoville, 11-1 in six innings, on April 23. One of the more memorable outings was the 1-0 victory over Marmion on April 19, when the Panthers honored Dave Elko, Ken Pickerill and Eric Lederman.

Another game that stood out was when the Panthers topped Kaneland, 8-7, in eight innings on May 10.

Oswego entered the playoffs having won three of its last four games, but ended up falling to a Plainfield East squad it defeated two of the three times in regular season conference action.

The Panthers started the season with 11 seniors - Mark Couch, Charlie Jakubowski, Alex Compton, Jerome Minick, Brad Whowell, Tucker Vann, Jeff Pieroni, Mitch Wilson, Israel Ortiz, Blake Sempetrean and Bryce Holm - and finished with all of them. Wilson and Jakubowski were named to the All-Conference team, and Wilson (Concordia) and Pieroni (Benedictine) are the lone two who will play baseball in college.

The seniors dominated the team awards. Pieroni was the Defensive Player of the Year, Wilson was the Offensive Player of the Year and MVP, Whowell earned Most Improved, the Hustle Award went to Jakubowski and the Panther Award went to Compton.

"(The seniors) set forth the expectation and commitment we are trying to set for the program," Johnson said. "They set the culture and tone and gave the team good chemistry. If we have more success next year, it's because of what the seniors taught these younger kids."

More than half the roster is projected to return in 2015, including sophomore Carter Turnquist, who was voted Pitcher of the Year by his teammates. He had one win in 33 innings and an ERA of 1.2. At the plate, he batted .274, scored 18 runs and had an on-base percentage of .386.

Junior pitcher Cameron Paladines had four wins in 29 innings, junior pitcher Marty Maves earned a win with a 3.4 ERA in 20 innings, junior infielder Jake Rock batted .280 and sophomore pitcher/ centerfielder Konor Gengler batted .309 with an on-base percentage of .424. Junior infielders Zach Sparkman and Dominick Lukowski will also be back.

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