Homestead baseball coach Ernie Millard knows his team has pitching, experience, good speed and the most depth he has seen in many years.
And though his team is off to a 10-2 start this summer, there is one thing that keeps the veteran mentor awake at nights.
"Our defense is really suspect," he said. "I told the kids I go home at night thinking about the defense and then I come to the park and we play badly. But then we do something like we did on Saturday (an 11-0 non-conference win over Muskego). We go out and we play brilliantly. So right now, I just don't know."
What Millard does know right now is that his team has put itself in good position early in the North Shore race after an important 13-1 hammering of former co-leader West Bend East on Monday night. The Highlanders now are locked in a tight battle with archrival Nicolet (4-1, 10-1) for the league lead.
And he thinks this team is built for the long haul.
"We have a lot back," he said, "and offensively, we can hit the ball. When we get everything set, we can be really formidable offensively and, like I said, this is the deepest team I've seen here. I can switch kids whenever needed."
Leading the way is a six-person senior group led by five-sport star Casey Barnes, who at one point this spring was juggling golf, track and baseball responsibilities.
"It's good to know where I'm going (to practice) now," Barnes said with a laugh. The shortstop/pitcher is Homestead's leading returnee and won a critical match-up with Nicolet earlier this spring.
Other seniors likely to play a huge role include infielder/pitcher Brady Bingham, infielder/pitcher Matt Lamers, outfielders Mark Schlifske and Joey Stoll and utility player Geoff Hilt.
Juniors expected to play big roles include pitcher/outfielder Mike Collins and pitcher/utility Andrew Holtorf. Millard said a fair number of sophomores will help out this summer, including infielders Zach Enea and Matt Schroeder, catcher Mitch Hauser, pitcher Max Beckers and pitcher/infielder Doug Mueller.
Millard said he can go comfortably six deep pitching.
The Highlanders have a difficult schedule in the next two weeks and will be short-handed for stretches as Stoll is scheduled to have some wisdom teeth removed and Barnes will be at college orientation.
A pivotal game will be a return match-up with Nicolet back at Rennicke at 8 p.m. Monday and then Homestead will host Cedarburg at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
"If we're still in the conference race after these two weeks, we'll have a chance," Millard said.
See a photo gallery from the Homestead baseball team's victory over Muskego
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