ST. MONICA — The season started with high expectations for St. Monica’s baseball team.

The team had a number of starters returning and looked like a lock to challenge for a second consecutive Camino Real League title. They began by winning two of the first three, but then the losses started to mount. Before they knew it, they were 2-5 and looking for answers.

To make things worse, third baseman and relief pitcher Kyle Schwan injured his shoulder before the season started, taking away a player who was on the mound last season when the team clinched a league title.

“He was being counted on,” Head Coach Jack White said of Schwan. “He’s back now, but it has been gradual.

“He hasn’t pitched an inning yet.”

That is expected to change as the St. Monica Mariners find themselves knee-deep in the league portion of their schedule. White expects Schwan to again take the mound and hopes the fortunes of his 9-8 (3-4 in league) ballclub improve as a result.

“When Kyle got hurt it throws everybody off,” White said. “We’re a small school, we’re not deep.”

The return of Schwan has helped St. Monica rebound of late, winning six of its last eight games.

“Our play has improved,” White said.

Filling the void created by Schwan’s absence has been the surprising play of sophomore pitcher Matthew Rubio. The youngster has been closing games or late, which will give Schwan the opportunity to round back into his familiar closer role.

The Mariners will get an opportunity to see its full-strength squad in action today as they travel to play St. Bernard (6-10-1 overall, 1-5 in league) at 3:15 p.m.

Even with better play of late, the team will be hard pressed to catch first place Cathedral, despite the fact that the Mariners were the only team to deal them a league defeat. If both teams continue to win, the Mariners have no choice but to play for second place.

But, that prospect sits well with White.

“This team is capable of running off seven, eight wins in a row,” he said.

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