After rebuilding year, Freeport baseball ready to contend again

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Freeport baseball started from scratch last year.

The cancellation of the 2020 season because of the pandemic left a gap between the 2019 team that made the state playoffs and last year’s team. Ed Carr and his staff spent the season bridging that gap, and and the coach believes the Yellowjackets are headed in the right direction.

“I think we’re really close to 100% buy-in from the guys,” Carr said. “I was a little concerned before last year, and it kind of rang true that we had to redevelop the culture. It’s not their fault, but none of those guys were involved with the ’19 team because they were so young that they weren’t around to see how hard that ’19 team worked to get to where they did.

“It took some time for the guys to understand what we were asking of them and what they needed to do to compete. We had an intersquad scrimmage (Friday), and I think everyone there could see how different we are compared to last year. I don’t know how it’s going to translate, but we’re stronger, we have a better understanding of what we need to do and the talent is developing.”

Freeport finished 5-15 overall and 1-9 in Section 1-4A last year.

The Yellowjackets are still young, with only two seniors: Noah Fryer and Ethan Lacinski.

Fryer was a part of the pitching staff last year with Zach Clark, a junior, and Matt Corfield, a sophomore. Freshman Michael Hanz is another pitcher with a really strong arm, Carr said.

They will work with junior catcher Alec Asti, who has worked to become one of the best backstops in the WPIAL, Carr added.

“There’s a lot more to pitching than throwing the baseball,” Carr said. “You have to know what your best stuff is and those guys had no clue last year. They’ve learned what they can throw, when they can throw it and what their out pitch is. They also learned about hitters.

“That’s a lot to ask for freshmen and sophomores. Now they have a better understanding of how to go about pitching to guys. We have way more pitching depth this year, and it’s going to come to down to our coaching staff to sort out who’s in what role.”

Lacinski, Asti, Clark, Brady Stivenson, Jack Smetak, Jonathan Hotalski, Asti and Ryan Claypool make up the meat of the lineup. Malik Febinger is a strong defensive player. Newcomers Dylan Stonebraker, AJ Demharter, Hanz and CJ Walker will be in the mix.

“We really broke down swings in the winter this year and had them understand what they need to feel and what the mechanics are of their swing,” Carr said.

“We started in December a little earlier than normal because the guys were interested. So far it’s paying dividends. I’m encouraged about what we can do offensively.

“As I say every year: It’s going to come down to pitching and defense. As much as I love hitting the baseball, you’re going to win or lose games on how you pitch and how you play defense.”

Freeport is in Section 1 again with Burrell, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch and North Catholic.

“Our section is brutal,” Carr said. “You have to look at Highlands as one of the favorites to win the WPIAL. They have multiple arms pushing 90 miles an hour, and we know from experience that arms can take you very far.

North Catholic was young and talented. Knoch is always good. Burrell was young like us last year, but coach (Mark) Spohn does a good job over there. Indiana has some young players that are really talented that you’re going to hear big things from. There’s going to be two really good teams that don’t make the playoffs from our section.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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