Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Talented Underclassmen Are Getting Longer Look

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Talented Underclassmen Are Getting Longer Look

Article excerpt

While most area high school baseball coaches have been playing their upperclassmen as much as possible early in the season, some now are depending more on younger players.

Steve Nicollerat of St. Louis U. High and DeSmet's Greg Vitello are among those discovering the younger player.

"If freshmen show me that they have the ability, why not give them the chance?" Vitello said. "Kids are getting fine-tuned at 12 and 13 years old. ."

One of the top freshmen is Justin Backsmeyer, a first baseman and pitcher at DeSmet. Backsmeyer (1-1) knocked off Mehlville 10-0 in his first appearance.

"In his next outing, we had a 7-0 lead against Lafayette in the fifth inning, but then all heck broke loose," Vitello said. "He couldn't seem to find the pitch that he needed to get out of it. I think that is part of being a freshman."

In Nicollerat's 16-year coaching career at SLUH, only two freshmen had played at the varsity level until this year. The last, Brian Seymour, graduated in 1990 and now is at the University of Missouri.

Nicollerat doubled the list this year with the addition of Brian Swift and Taylor Twillman.

"Swift has helped solidify our pitching staff," said Nicollerat. "Twillman has a really good glove, quick feet and a great bat. There's no way you can take a look at these two and tell that they are freshman."

Sullivan's Matt Lattimore had some pretty big shoes to fill when Derek Dace graduated and signed to pitch in the Houston Astros organization.

"We're a little inexperienced with the loss of five starters," said Sullivan coach Ed Lipe, whose team (9-1) moved into the No. 1 ranking of the Post-Dispatch's small schools poll this week. "Lattimore has pitched himself out of some problems created by our defense, and he's done so with great poise."

Lattimore (5-0) has not allowed a run in 28 innings, and he has an area-high 46 strikeouts. …

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