SENECA – Coach Kirk Houchin will take his Seneca Fighting Irish to southern Illinois to play baseball over spring break for the 19th time next week.
The Irish have yet to practice on their own field due to the weather, making this an ideal time to head south.
Houchin can remember only once instance where the timing was similarly optimal.
“I remember one other time playing the Cobden Appleknockers and calling the Tribune, calling the game in,” Houchin said. “First thing the guy said was, ‘Where in the hell were you playing?” and I said we were playing the Cobden Appleknockers. We were the only team in the Chicago Tribune area that played that day.”
The five games in four days for which the Irish are scheduled should give Houchin a better idea exactly what he has in Seneca’s “good mix” of experienced players and varsity newcomers.
Along with the five seniors and nine juniors on the roster, the Irish will take five underclassmen on the spring trip; three are expected to remain with the varsity beyond it.
Seniors Brandon Pasdertz and Austin Applebee are in contention to be the ace for the Irish pitching staff, Houchin said.
Juniors Brandon Viken, Lars Pihl and Matt Houchin, along with sophomore Michael Rhodes and freshman Hunter Simon are also expected to pitch.
Pasdertz has been throwing since December in Seneca’s new indoor cages, with Irish lower-level assistants Dan McCarthy and Tim Brungard providing guidance. He hopes the result is an Interstate Eight All-Conference season.
“Now, I’m looking at the role I’ve been waiting for for four years,” Pasdertz said. “I really wanna be a guy that all the other guys look up to. I wanna be the one that everyone looks to on the field, even if I’m not on the mound or I’m at third base.”
Most of the pitchers are likely to be regulars elsewhere when they are not on the mound. Pasdertz and Simon will play at third base, Viken will play shortstop.
Applebee will play right field and Pihl at first base. Matt Houchin’s status as the primary Irish catcher will limit the amount of pitching he does, coach Houchin says.
Other likely starters include junior C.J. Pasdertz at second base, junior Zach Russell in left field and senior Conlan Callahan in center field.
Since enduring a 6-26 season in 2011, the Irish have improved annually, finishing 13-19 last season.
They hope the progression continues and that they get back to the top of their division in the I-8.
Westmont won the conference in 2013, though fellow member Lisle later became the Class 2A state champion.
“Each year, we’ve kind of built from my freshman year as far as wins, so hopefully this year, we’ll be over .500,” Brandon Pasdertz said.