In Year 3, CLC’s baseball coach has set the bar high
By Bryan Bonato Special to The News-Sun February 15, 2013 1:10PM
College of Lake Counnty baseball coach Heath Cummings (left) talks to his players at the start of practice at at Bat Speed in Gurnee. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
CLC BASEBALL ROSTER
Caleb Haley (Warren High School grad)
Chris Hoffman (Lakes)
Kyle Cibrario (Libertyville)
Ryan Dragoon (Antioch)
Zach Pawlowski (Mundelein)
Casey Geissberger (Zion-Ben ton)
Chris Derue (Lakes)
Brandon Hrdlicka (Warren)
Cole Urban (Zion-Benton)
Jared Helmich (Grant)
Stephen Sliwa (Carmel)
Dillion Engle (from Wisconsin)
Ryan Helmeid (from Wisconsin)
Brad Martin (1B/DH from Libertyville)
Alex May (C from Carmel)
Ryan Miscenic (SS/2B from Zion-Benton)
Sean Harling (C from Carmel)
Alex Letto (C/DH from Warren)
Jordan Wiegold (OF/2B from Mundelein)
Blake Busca (2B from Carmel)
Anthony Garza (OF from Warren)
James Lesniewski (1B/DH from Richmond)
Malcolm Frazier (3B/SS from Wisconsin)
Trent Taylor (SS from Wisconsin)
Zac Borkowski (OF from Wisconsin)
CLC EARLY SEASON HOME GAMES
Saturday, March 30 — 2 games with Morton, noon
Tuesday, April 2 — 2 games with Oakton, 2:30
Sunday, April 7 — 2 games with Robert Morris JV, 1:00
Tuesday, April 9 — 2 games with Elgin, 2:30
Updated: April 17, 2013 2:38AM
Heath Cummings got the call to be baseball coach at the College of Lake County very late in the game a couple years ago, and the result was a 9-24 season.
Last year, with a foundation in place, the Lancers improved to 23-22.
Now, in Year 3, Cummings has his sights set about as high as a junior college baseball coach can set them.
“Our goal is to win more games than we did last year. Last year, we won 23, and I don’t see why we couldn’t win 35 games this year with the pitching staff we have,” he said during a recent practice at the Bat Speed indoor baseball facility in Gurnee. “If we win conference this year, it will be the 19th time we’ve won in baseball. That’s pretty darn good.
“And we want to advance through sectionals and regionals and obviously on to the World Series. I think that’s what everybody’s ultimate goal is. I think we have a good, healthy pitching staff and enough arms to get us in that position.”
He also has players who are used to winning. There are four Warren High School grads on the team, and four who went to prep baseball power Carmel.
”I have a pretty good relationship with almost all of the coaches in the Lake County area. Coach (Clint) Smothers at Warren has really been helpful in encouraging players to play for us,” Cummings said. “We have four guys on the team: (Anthony) Garza, (Brandon) Hrdlicka, (Alex) Letto, and Caleb Haley, who is our ace. He’s about 90-91 on the gun. We’ll see what he does this year.
“Coaches have been really responsive to keeping players in the area. I go out to games and practices, and they tell me ‘It’s nice to see a Lake County coach out again.’ I don’t get them all, but if I go after 10 kids and can get seven of them, that’s doing pretty good.”
For his part, Haley is fired up for his sophomore season. He’s also already accepted a full scholarship to pitch for his final two years at the University of Wis.-Milwaukee.
Haley was an All-Skyway Conference pick last year. He was 4-1 with a 2.85 earned-run averaged.
“Having a solid pitching staff is very important. Last year, we really relied on two pitchers almost the entire year,” Haley said. “It was a struggle. Having a good staff this year, we can deal with any situation and really go deep into games.”
Haley also noted a change in the environment around the club.
“The camaraderie is significant this year. Last year, we were kind of split, both as sophomores and freshmen and by high school teammates,” he said. “This group feels much more like a team.”
Among position players, key returnees include:
■ James Lesniewski (.336 batting average, 33 RBI) as an all-conference player last year as a 1B/DH.
■ Brad Martin (.274, 31 RBI) as an all-conference player at 1B/DH.
■ Malcolm Frazier (.301, 17 RBI) is a third baseman who swung the bat pretty well in the fall.
■ Alex May caught 80 percent of the games last year. He struggled with the bat a little bit last year, but put a lot of work in during the offseason and swung the bat well in the fall.
But in the end, baseball is still all about pitching.
“We have a lot of depth on the mound,” said Cummings. “We don’t have a lot of pitchers returning, but we have a lot of good freshmen coming in.
“Last year, we had seven pitchers when all was said and done. This year, we have 14 right now. We’re definitely in a lot better position right now. Our 1-9 have pretty strong arms. When you’re playing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday doubleheaders, you really need at least 12 arms that can go out there and give you quality innings.”
CLC will be practicing indoors until heading to Florida on March 11 for six games.
“That will kind of tell us where we’re at,” the coach said. “Last year, we did pretty well (in Florida) and then came back and hit the tar out of the ball for the first two weeks. Then, we kind of fell off.
“This year, we have a lot more speed in the lineup, and we should be able to really hit and run, run and hit, and stuff like that. We’ll do a lot more stealing than we did last year.”