Montini senior shortstop Estevan Moreno was taken back by many things last week.
When the Broncos traveled to Orlando, Florida, to play several games over spring break, Moreno enjoyed the experience on and off the diamond. The summer-like weather, top competition and off-the-field activities were a stark contrast to the dark and gloomy weather in the Chicago area.
Moreno also was mildly surprised that he was recognized by a few younger kids during the trip. Moreno, a Notre Dame recruit, is one of the top players in the Midwest, but he didn’t think he had name recognition in Florida.
“There were some kids, think in our first game and third game, who asked about me,” Moreno said. “They said, ‘Are you the kid going to Notre Dame?’ I was confused how they knew that, maybe they did some research on our team.”
The Broncos (6-3) finished 2-2 on their trip to Florida, concluding with a victory over Westlake (Utah) thanks to an RBI double from Moreno.
Moreno said the Broncos gained valuable insight into their team during the trip, plus built stronger bonds that hopefully will last for the rest of the season.
“I think it went really good,” he said. “We played two out-of-state teams and the first game went really well. They had a kid throwing upper 80s who committed to South Carolina. Everybody was a little worried how fast he was pitching, but our team is scrappy. We’re young, but a lot of people underestimate us because we’re young.
“It was fun hanging with the guys, getting to know them and building our team chemistry, from going to the pool and doing rides. It was fun.”
Moreno is coming off a banner junior season in which he was named the Chicago Catholic League Player of the Year. He batted .333 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs and walked 26 times in 28 games.
Moreno said he struggled in the first few games this season before regaining his stroke. Through nine games, Moreno is batting .241 with two home runs, seven RBIs and four runs scored. He opened the season with just one hit in his first 10 at-bats.
“My first couple of games were shaky,” he said. “I was probably too much in my head, but after those games, I started to get comfortable and be more like myself. I was not chasing balls and not getting behind the count. I’ve been happy with my fielding, though. I think I’ve started with one of my best seasons and am trying to get every ground ball that I can.
“It’s different this year. I’m taking on more of a leadership role, and you have to kind of put more on yourself to try and get the team to buy in because others are looking for you for leadership. We just have to be tough and work through these games. We can win games.”
Nazareth making progress in first quarter
Nazareth coach Lee Milano is encouraged by the progress of his team through the first portion of the season. The Roadrunners bring back a surplus of talent, putting them among the teams expected to make a run at the state title.
“I’m pleased with everyone staying focused with the unpredictable practices and game conditions because of the weather,” Milano said. “This team comes to work every day regardless of time or locations of practices and games, yet still has fun. We’re in the first quarter of the season and there is still a long way to go. Weather permitting, we play every day this week. The conference opens on Saturday against undefeated St. Viator. Our conference doesn’t have a weak team. Every game is a battle that prepares us for the state playoffs.”
The Roadrunners (6-1) have been on a hitting tear during their four-game winning streak, piling up 40 runs.
“We currently have seven guys hitting over .400,” Milano said. “Luca Fiore and Nick Drtina are getting it done both on the mound and at the plate. Fiore is hitting .400 and Drtina .500. Both are 2-0 on the mound with ERAs lower than 1.00.”
Wheaton Academy working its way back up
Eight games into the season, Wheaton Academy (3-4-1) has experienced a whole gamut of positives and negatives. The Warriors have played several high-scoring games, won a game via a shutout and endured a 6-6 tie against West Chicago.
Junior Hudson Williams tops the team in several categories, including batting average (.520), hits (13), doubles (four) and runs scored (eight).
“We’re learning a lot about our guys,” Wheaton Academy coach Justin Swider said. “We’re young and figuring some stuff out, but I believe we have a lot of potential on our squad. The season is still very young and we have a lot of games left. We have had a couple young players show some great stuff for us in the first part of the season. They’re trying to make a name for themselves and I believe they will be valuable contributors as we move into the heart of the season.”