Garry Maynard is good to go.
Maynard, Oswego's hard-hitting senior third baseman, was hurt legging out a ground ball last spring. When he was out, the Panthers missed his thump. Maynard's injury was one of several Oswego contended with during a 19-10 season.
But it’s a new year.
"Health-wise, I feel great right now, the best I've ever felt," said Maynard, who committed to play collegiately at Concordia University-Chicago in November. "I'm pumped about this season. We have a good team, some talented kids putting it out there every single day."
Maynard's return to full strength is one of a number of reasons why the Panthers, coming off a nice run in the summer tournament, are feeling bullish going into this spring.
"We got a solid group of guys, a veteran group," Oswego coach Joe Giarrante said. "We have a lot of miles on our players, well-seasoned. We have a lot of game experience that should help coming out of the gates."
Maynard spent much of the offseason working on his defense, footwork and glove work. More than anything, though, he worked on trying to stay on the field. He did a lot of explosive high rep work, stretching and running, with coach John Hugunin at Oswego High School, and also at the Elite Sports Performance training complex.
"I feel really quick, quicker than I have ever felt," Maynard said. "I feel incredible."
Giarrante is glad to hear it.
Maynard, despite being limited to 60 plate appearances last spring, still led Oswego with four homers and drove in 19 runs with a .392 average and 1.35 OPS.
"It took some wind out of our sails last year when he was hurt," Giarrante said, "but there is nothing like having that staple in the middle of the lineup. I still think he led our team in some offensive categories last year playing half the season. Hopefully this year we keep him healthy and he blossoms into the player we think he can. It's all there at the plate for him for sure."
Maynard will have some capable hitters to set the table for him.
JD Miller, who will play collegiately at Jefferson Community College, is back after hitting .370 with 29 runs scored last spring. Illinois recruit Cal Hejza, always a good glove at shortstop, took off at the plate midway through last spring when he was moved to second in the order. He hit .253 with five doubles and 15 runs scored, and had the walk-off hit in a summer regional game.
"He really found his groove," Giarrante said. "He's a savvy fielder, doesn't get fooled much, has a high baseball IQ."
Miller is slated as Oswego's starting catcher, but with a capable backup in Avery Delphey and promising junior Paddy Hranka, Giarrante expects Miller to rotate into the outfield as well.
"It's really hard to catch 32 games; JD is very athletic, he can get to balls in center that other guys can't," Giarrante said. "JD knows our system, and knows what to expect. He's matured as a kid and as a player which I think will reap benefits."
On the mound, Oswego brings back pitchers who combined for 13 of the team's 19 wins last year. That group includes Matt Sorrells, Jason Crafton, Codey Quirin and Andrew Delphey.
"We have a lot of options," Giarrante said.
Luke Menard also returns at second base, with newcomers in the mix including Jack Lemke, Hranka, Tommy Picha, Darren Make and senior pitcher Eric Valles, a transfer from Aurora Central Catholic.
The Panthers kicked off their season Thursday with a 14-5 win over Mt. Vernon in Edwardsville. The home opener is scheduled for Monday against Bolingbrook.