Baseball: Libertyville senior has a blast in game at Miller Park
Libertyville senior shortstop Anthony Mack makes a play at second during last week's game against Zion-Benton. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:22AM
When senior shortstop Anthony Mack steps into the batter’s box during Libertyville High School’s home games, he takes a look down the right field line, and admittedly sometimes can’t help himself.
Mack, who bats left-handed, sees the 280-foot sign just below the foul pole in that area, and knows how tempting it can be to swing for the fences — for that simple reason alone.
“Sometimes I try (to hit a home run to right), even though I know I’m not supposed to,” Mack said. “I see the 280 (sign) and it appeals to me a little too much. I know I should just try to hit singles and make contact with the ball. But sometimes it just gets the best of me.”
Even though he only has one home run in the Wildcats’ first 14 games, he’s off to a red-hot start at the plate, with a .422 batting average. Libertyville students and fans got a glimpse of his raw power during a game at Miller Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, on April 12. Libertyville beat Milwaukee-Riverside in that contest 10-9 — and Mack played a role in the victory.
In his first at-bat, Mack narrowly missed doing something most kids only dream of in a MLB stadium, when he blasted a two-run triple off the middle off the right-center field wall — just a few feet from clearing the fence. In his second at-bat, he hit a booming fly ball to the warning track in almost exactly the same spot.
Considering it’s 345 feet to the right-field foul pole inside Miller Park, it’s understandable why Mack is tempted to pull the ball for power at home, where there’s a much shorter porch.
“I try to take the approach where I hit most of the balls I see up the middle,” Mack said. “It doesn’t always happen as much as I’d like, but that’s what I try to do when I’m at the plate. Then, when I have two strikes, I try to change my approach and hit the ball the opposite way.”
Mack also was a starter for Libertyville’s basketball team, and made the North Suburban Conference’s all-academic team in 2011, and again this year. He was NSC All-Conference honorable mention as a junior on the baseball team as well.
It’s his second year playing baseball for the Wildcats at the varsity level. In 2011, he played second base, but was returned to his natural position at shortstop this season, after the graduation of A.J. Schurr.
“I haven’t really had too much trouble making the adjustment from second to shortstop, since that’s where I’d been playing most of my life,” Mack said. “The biggest difference is you don’t have as much time to make the throw over to first.”
Mack, who says he prefers baseball over basketball, is deciding where he wants to play in college. He’s narrowed his choices down to a pair of Division III schools — Grinnell College in Iowa, or Trinity University in San Antonio.
Busy stretch: A 10-8 nonconference win over Evanston on Saturday capped a busy stretch for the Wildcats. It was their fifth game in five days. Libertyville went 4-1 during that span.
The Cats beat Zion-Benton 8-1 on April 10. They swept the home-and-home series against the Zee-Bees by beating them 15-7 the following day. After beating Milwaukee-Riverside at Miller Park, Libertyville lost a road game to Antioch 5-1 on April 13.
Libertyville coach Jim Schurr thought fatigue may have become a significant factor by the end of the week.
“We’re down on pitching right now,” said Libertyville coach Jim Schurr. “Kids are tired. Three of our last four games have been three hours or more. We didn’t get home from our game in Milwaukee until 11:15 p.m., then had to play the next day. The day before that, we were in Zion for a three-hour game, then a long ride home. They’re just dragging right now. I think that may have contributed some to the mental and physical errors we started to see on Friday and Saturday, especially.”
Multi-level success: Libertyville’s varsity squad (10-4 overall record, 2-0 NSC Lake) isn’t the only Wildcats team doing well this season.
The JV squad, which is usually comprised of varsity players who typically see action in the second game of weekend doubleheaders, was 6-1 heading into Saturday’s game against Evanston. Libertyville’s sophomore team is 11-3, the freshman A team is 12-2, and the freshman B group is 12-1.
“These guys all play hard and all love the game,” said Libertyville JV coach Tom Carlucci. “It’s great to see our kids having success at each level the way they have been this season.”
On deck: The Wildcats were scheduled to play a key home-and-home series against NSC Lake Division rival Lake Zurich Tuesday and Wednesday.
Libertyville will host North Chicago at 4:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a visit to Highland Park at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Cats have another home-and-home Lake Division series on tap — this time against Stevenson — on the road April 24 and at home a day later. Both games begin at 4:30 p.m.