18. LEWIS FLYERS (33-18)

It wasn’t long ago the Lewis Flyers were just plain horrible; like the series finale of “Dexter” awful. If you didn’t see it take my word for it. That’s pretty bad. In 2007 the Flyers were an abysmal 8-47 and in the preceding years reaching double-digit wins was an accomplishment.  The program has come along way in a few years. Since taking over as the head coach in 2008, Tim McDonough has led the team to unprecedented school success and transformed the perennial doormat into a rising national contender. Last season the Flyers won the GLVC East Division title and earned an invite to the Midwest Regional. LU went 2-2 and fared well in the tournament, but just as they were in the GLVC tournament, the Flyers were upset by a determined Bellarmine club to come short of adding extra hardware to the trophy case. A solid lineup with quality arms returns in 2014 and the team could be a breakout player or two away from advancing to Cary.

Lewis' Tom Helwich

Lewis’ Tom Helwich

The Flyers have one of the GLVC’s most dominating starters in Tom Helwich back on the mound. Helwich went 10-2 last season with a 1.95 ERA, threw four complete games and held opposition to a .217 batting average to be the uncontested ace of the staff.  The rest of the arms have proven to be functional but will need to be more if the Flyers are to go deep into the postseason. Phil Warner compiled 17 quality appearances last spring in a dual role. The junior started four games and also saved four while earning a 2.34 ERA in 34.2 innings with 41 strikeouts. Kendall Paluch, another senior starter who went 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA gives the team an additional experience presence in the rotation.  A pair of incoming arms could results in an increase in wins this season. Eann Cox went 6-4 with a 1.89 ERA for Black Hawk Commnity College where he also hit .370. Freshman pitcher Sam Couch helped his high school team win the state title by going 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 13 K’s per nine innings pitched.

Just as the Flyers’ top pitcher will be back on the mound, their best hitter will once again be stepping into the batter’s box. Jake Murray was only one of two hitters in the conference to reach double-digit homeruns as he hit 10 homers in 162 at bats. When compiled with his .333 batting average and 15 doubles, Murray led the conference in slugging percentage; his .471 on base percentage nearly led the GLVC as well. Ben Albano, Mike Barajas and Kyle Kapka are another trio of returning players who each batted over .300. Albano added seven home runs, Barajas supplied solid defense at shortstop and Kapka anchored the pitching staff as the team’s catcher.  Outfielder Alex Slaby was injured much of last season but did hit .292 and stole 11 bases in 13 attempts when he was in the lineup. Coaches believe that Slaby could be a vital cog to the offense this season.  Brandon Collins, a transfer from South Suburban College, is also hoped to ignite the offense this year.