By Will Willems
After coming within one out of making the state championship game last season, the expectations are high for the Eagles baseball team in 2013.
The team is the top-ranked team in the pre-season poll in Class 4A. But despite returning 400 at bats and 15 wins on the mound, head coach John Zangrilli knows this season will still have a learning curve.
“On paper it looks OK, but we graduated five college-bound baseball players and the heart of the lineup,” Zangrilli said. “This is a different group of kids. We have four or five kids up from the JV team last year, and they didn’t do anything last year to earn that target on their back, so now they are going to have to learn how to deal with it. Some of the older guys that have been here for a while — they get it. They understand what it means and know that when we go face another team we are probably going to see their top end arms and they will be excited for the game. But in this conference, to be honest with you, rankings, previous records, current records, they don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. This is such a dominated, talented conference top to bottom.”
After losing in the opening round of the sectional in 2011, the Eagles bounced back with a 28-6 record in winning the conference, sectional and regional last year.
They held a 3-1 lead heading into the seventh inning and a 3-2 lead with two outs before ultimately losing in nine innings.
He is hoping for similar lessons from last year’s tough loss.
“It has been a learning process,” Zangrilli said. “In 2011, we took one on in the chin in the sectional, which is nothing to be ashamed of in our sectional. We used it as a learning process and, obviously, we benefited from that in 2012. We didn’t take anything for granted; we went into the tournament with a similar record than the year before and maybe we were more focused, I don’t know, or the chips just went our way. ... They didn’t forget what they learned last year — so that is the good news. We are picking up where we left off and are moving on. We are looking forward to the season getting started; our guys are chomping at the bit just like all the other kids in the state of Indiana. We just want the ground to thaw so we can do it.”