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Dominic Palumbo, Sandburg ease past Thornwood

For Sandburg’s Dominic Palumbo, relaxing has been the easiest part to imagine.

It also has been the hardest thing to achieve.

As a matter of fact, the junior third baseman was always stellar defensively, but he spent the majority of last season trying to figure out how to feel comfortable at the plate.

“I’m not nervous up there anymore the way I was,” he said. “I’ve learned how to adapt and play at a quick pace — just stay in rhythm and make sure I’m always ready for whatever comes next.”

Whatever came next Friday afternoon as Palumbo produced three hits and three RBIs for the host Eagles in a 12-2 nonconference victory over Thornwood in Orland Park.

Batting third, Palumbo has justified his coach’s confidence in that offensive improvement. He’s already hitting .333 with seven runs, two doubles and seven RBIs for Sandburg (8-1, 2-0).

The maturation process has been clearly on display this spring.

“He has made the jump,” Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo said of Palumbo. “He has good at-bats. He doesn’t strike out a lot. Right away last season, we liked how he handled the bat.

“Defensively, he’s awesome. Anything hit in that direction, we know he is going to make the play.”

Sandburg's Dominic Palumbo (8) takes a lead off second base against Thornwood during a nonconference game Friday, April 5, 2024 in Orland Park, IL. (Steve Johnston/Daily Southtown)
Sandburg’s Dominic Palumbo (8) takes a lead off of second base against Thornwood during a nonconference game in Orland Park on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Steve Johnston / Daily Southtown)

Palumbo is one of five juniors who made their varsity debuts last spring as sophomores for the Eagles. The learning curve can often feel like a shock to the system for underclassmen.

The mountain seems steep and the environment harsh as far as how quickly everything moves.

“There are going to be growing pains,” Morsovillo said. “Putting players in those situations against pretty good varsity players, they’re going to struggle a little bit.

”That varsity experience ends up being huge, and that is what has made the difference.”

Sandburg's Michael Stapleton (1) makes the flip to first base against Thornwood during a nonconference game Friday, April 5, 2024 in Orland Park, IL. (Steve Johnston/Daily Southtown)
Sandburg’s Michael Stapleton (1) makes the flip to first base against Thornwood during a nonconference game in Orland Park on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Steve Johnston / Daily Southtown)

Last season, Palumbo finished without an extra-base hit for the Eagles. But with improved bat speed, he has learned to graft technique to a sharper mental state.

“I try to have my hands quick,” he said. “Make sure the lower half is slow and just try not to get out in front of the ball. Being that No. 3, I like to hit line drives and gets as many RBIs as possible.”

The increased comfort comes from the familiarity of those in front and behind him in the order.

Shortstop AJ Macak, outfielder Charlie Snorek and designated hitter Nick Morsovillo are all juniors who saw their first varsity action last spring. Leadoff hitter Macak is followed by Snorek, with Morsoville fourth.

“Dom just constantly pushes himself and the team to be better,” Macak said. “He takes every repetition with game speed, and he sticks to this calm mindset.”

Sandburg's third baseman Dominic Palumbo (8) makes the throw to first for the out against Thornwood during a nonconference game Friday, April 5, 2024 in Orland Park, IL. (Steve Johnston/Daily Southtown)
Sandburg’s Dominic Palumbo (8) makes a throw to first base against Thornwood during a nonconference game in Orland Park on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Steve Johnston / Daily Southtown)

Ethan Highfill, a senior outfielder/pitcher who bats fifth, has noticed a marked change in Palumbo.

“He wants to learn all the time,” Highfill said. “He always asks for input on his swing. There’s not really much to say because he really has all the fundamentals down.

“He has an amazing attitude, on and off the field, and he works hard all of the time.”

Palumbo grew up playing a range of sports, including football and basketball. By the time he was ready to start high school, he decided to concentrate on baseball.

“I love the part of being with teammates and being a part of something,” he said. ”This year has been better because I learned a lot from last year. Being with my friends made it possible.”

And Palumbo hopes the upward trajectory continues.

“I love the feeling of succeeding,” he said. “Whether that’s hitting or making a nice play just feels awesome. Being with this team is just pure fun.”

Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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