Baseball: Meger provides two-way threat for red-hot Niles WestSkokie, 03/16/12
Niles West's Jason Meger delivers the pitch during their game against Wheeling at Niles West March 16. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Take away ace pitcher, third baseman and clean-up hitter Jason Meger, and Niles West will probably face a difficult time contending for the CSL South crown.
The versatile Meger is as indispensable to the red-hot Wolves (11-1) as is fellow co-captains senior superstar shortstop Kevin Ross and junior second baseman/pitcher Kyle Colletta.
A third-year starter, Meger opened 2012 at 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA, while hitting .330 with five doubles in the middle of veteran head coach Garry Gustafson’s potent lineup.
“Jason is a very solid three-year varsity player,” said Gustafson. “He’s our No. 1 starting pitcher, and he’s as good a third baseman as there is in the area.”
Before reaching his pitch-count limit, Meger held Von Steuben to one hit and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn a 6-1 victory on April 3. Two days later, he collected two hits and a walk at the plate to support Colletta’s complete-game effort in a 4-3 win over Lake Forest.
“I feel very confident this year,” said the tapered 6-foot-4 Meger. “I worked a lot on strengthening my core in the offseason. I was struggling with my hitting, but now I’m starting to get my swing back. I throw two- and four-seam fastballs. I have confidence in my curve and change-up, and I’ve just started to throw a splitter.”
Meger, who gave up basketball and hockey to concentrate solely on baseball, fanned eight Wheeling batters in five shutout innings. He cleaned up at the plate with a single, double and three RBI in a season-opening, 9-0 win on March 16. The senior, who throws an 86-mph heater, pitched well in a 3-0 loss to Barrington 10 days later.
Niles West extended its current winning streak to seven games by hammering visiting Ridgewood 12-2 in six innings on Saturday. Senior first baseman/catcher Eric Stojanoff belted a pair of three-run homers, one to left-center in the fifth inning and a bullet down the left-field line in the sixth.
“Greatest feeling in the world. Both were inside fastballs,” said Stojanoff, a lethal No. 6 hitter who follows a murderers’ row of Ross, Colletta, Meger and catcher-pitcher Seth Rosenberg, a valuable junior transfer from New Trier.
More Wolves are contributing as the season unfolds. Underrated senior utilityman Evan Athanasiou claimed the win Saturday with three innings of shutout relief on the mound. Senior right fielder Trevor Talhami delivered three hits and two RBI. Senior first baseman Max Markoff chipped in a pair of hits in the win over Von Steuben.
“I think the big difference this year is that we are coming through in key situations,” Meger said. “We have a lot of experience, and we believe in each other. We want to show we can beat Maine South and New Trier, and anyone else in conference.”
Niles West’ was to welcome tough Glenbrook North on Tuesday, followed by another league crossover against an improved Maine East club today (Thursday). After competing in the Rochelle-Guilford Tournament on Saturday, the Wolves open the CSL South against Evanston April 17 and 19.