March 3, 2015
Cyclones ready to bounce back in 2015
Of all the aspirations and expectations that come with a new baseball season
with new coaches, one thing is for certain, the Cyclones will have more
homeruns than last year.
New head Coach Mike Kane took over the Cyclones with assistant John Schenck starting last fall. Kane played some years in the minor leagues before being an assistant coach at Moraine Valley in the late 1980s. He more recently was an assistant at Lewis University and Prairie State College.
Things are looking good for this 2015 squad, but Kane guaranteed his players will hit more than one homerun, which is what they had last season. As a former hitting coach, he wants to see his guys hit hard.
“I want the kids to drive the ball. If you strike out, you strike out but have a hit. Hit the line drive,” Kane said. “I’ve always been a hitter, so I expect our guys to get hits off everyone they face. That’s why I’m confident.”
After a handful of games this past fall, the Cyclones surprised some teams. Kane is expecting that trend to continue this spring. After fall ball ended, he talked to each player and explained his expectations and what they could do to improve. If someone wants to start, they need to work for it; even starters (which are mostly sophomores) have to work hard to maintain their positions.
“We all have the same goal—we want to get better. We want to play well and get better every game, hitting our peak in the playoffs. That’s where we’ll meet our big challenge when we face the other #1 pitchers. As long as we play smart baseball, we’ll do it. I’ve made the guys look at the [award] banners in the gym and see how few championships we have. That’s going to change. We’re going to go far. I’m hoping for a sectional,” Kane said.
Last year was rough for the Cyclones when they went 9-17 on the season. With the talent on this year’s team and the drive for a rebound, Kane expects nothing below .500. Returning from an All-Conference season are Bobby Neylon (Tinley Park) and Sheamus Brennan (Tinley Park). The hard-working Neylon played third and could see some action at catcher this season. Brennan is expected to lead off and set the tone for the games. Both are stellar leaders for this up-and-coming group. After plugging in many games on the mound, Ricky Rogers (Stagg) is back and should eat up some innings for the Cyclones. Sophomore James Lulek (Lemont) also will contribute to the pitching staff, but his strong arm will be needed more in the outfield. Hard-throwing sophomore righty Matt Schmeski (Shepard) and southpaw David Kutschke (Evergreen Park) should add to the pitching rotation. “I think our pitchers will do a good job. I tell them to pitch to contact, just don’t put it down the middle, let other teams hit the ball because we’ve got good defense. Our defense is solid,” Kane said.
The others returners who should help the cause include outfielder Christian Arazia (Shepard), pitcher Jose Hernandez (Curie), shortstop Jason Hine (Oak Forest), infielder/pitcher Ryan Kull (Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences), outfielder Mike Owens (Oak Forest), infielder Michael Rankin (Stagg), and outfielder Jackson Rocha (De La Salle).
Not only will Kane expect a high level of athleticism, but some class and respect for each other, the opponents, coaches, and the school. Those two elements, plus the drive to improve, bode well for 2015.
“They have the motivation after last year’s results. If we work as a team, we’ll be good,” Kane said. “I’m real excited. We can’t wait to get going.”
Joining Kane is Schenck, who was a four-year starter at Robert Morris University and is working with the pitchers. “He’s very knowledgeable and intense. He works our boys hard,” Kane said.
The Cyclones head to Arkansas for spring training on March 7.