Indian Creek baseball coach Joe Piekarz had never seen Trevor Guerra play when Indian Creek reported for preseason practices.
Piekarz knew Guerra had athletic ability, as he played varsity soccer in the fall and was on the sophomore basketball team this winter. After a few practices Piekarz thought Guerra had a good approach as a hitter, could see some time as a pitcher and could contribute as an infielder.
But, in the IHSA Class 1A regional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Guerra will be a vital component for No. 3 seed Indian Creek against No. 2 Lanark-Eastland. The freshman is 7-0, has a 2.20 ERA and has 21 strikeouts against 10 walks. He's active in the strike zone, trusts his defense and locates his pitches to keep hitters off balance.
As a lead off man he's a catalyst for the Indian Creek offense with a .350 batting average and a .530 on base percentage.
"Confidence is the big difference between Trevor and other freshman," Piekarz said. "His belief in his abilities has given him the chance to be successful at the plate, in the field and on the mound. He has been really good in all three phases. I thought he would be able to help us in the infield. He also looked like he would have good approaches at the plate. We though he could be a No. 3 or No. 4 pitcher."
Even though he only turned 15 in February, Guerra hasn't been intimidated to play against upperclassmen.
"I look at everyone the same regardless of age," Guerra said. "We are all baseball players. We are all playing the same game. I've worked hard this year and trust my ability."
Under the tutelage of Piekarz, a former Northern Illinois pitcher, Guerra tweaked his pitching fundamentals and embraced the Indian Creek philosophy to throw strikes and rely on fielders to make plays. Guerra didn't play travel baseball in junior high, a circuit where the values of winning aren't held in the highest regard, so he has taken to being selective with the strikes he throws.
"Not all strikes are created equally," Piekarz said. "When Trevor pitches he does a good job of not letting hitters see hittable hitches. He moves his fastball around well, uses both sides of the plate and moves the ball up and down in the zone well, which doesn't let hitters barrel up his pitches."
The step up in competition from Waterman recreational baseball to Indian Creek didn't worry Guerra. He did more research on hitters during the game and listened to the upperclassmen on how to turn in a quality at-bat.
"Growing up, I would usually just strike every hitter out," Guerra said. "I knew, taking a step up in class, I would face better players and would be able to just throw strikes over the plate and get them out. I had to have confidence in our defense and all season they proved to be one of the best in the conference at making plays."
With impressive freshman statistics and three more prep seasons, Guerra still sees room for improvement.
"I want to develop new pitches," Guerra said. "I need to add a slider and more velocity to my fastball. As a hitter I can add power and greater bat speed."
An unknown commodity as the season started, Guerra won't sneak up on any opponents during the playoffs.