LANSING | Alex Schell called last year "a learning year."
As a junior, he was a wide-eyed pupil, taking in everything he could to make himself better. He moved to first base and was in the pitching rotation in what was a tough year for the Rebels.
This year, Schell is a starter at first base and the No. 2 man in the rotation.
"I have gotten more fundamentally sound," Schell said. "You learn by playing and from mistakes.
"I guess what it did was make us tougher."
Learning is commonplace for Schell, who is ranked 22nd in his senior class and has a 4.0 GPA.
His coach, Matt Tiffy, has him in an AP history class and said he is as competitive in the classroom as on the diamond.
"He is always pushing himself to do well in class," Tiffy said. "Same thing on the field — Alex wants to work to get better."
Schell will attend North Central College in the fall.
On the field, he is also paying dividends. Schell threw a five-hitter on March 31 in a 6-3 win against Homewood-Flossmoor. Tiffy said Schell is a big piece to the Rebels' puzzle.
"He will hit in the meat of the order and obviously he will be asked a lot as far as delivering runs," Tiffy said. "On the defensive side of things Alex has taken on playing first base which is totally different from last year. Alex has stepped up to the plate and has accepted his challenge. He is also going to also be one of our main pitchers."
Tiffy said Schell's ability to get guys out gives the team confidence.
"The communication between players and coaches will be vital to how we play and mature as a team," Tiffy said. "His dividends as a captain as already paid off during conditioning and getting to that next level."
Schell was originally a third baseman, but is comfortable with his move to first.
"I think playing the hot corner, you become more alert," Schell said. "My job is to go out there and just play hard no matter what position Coach puts me at."
Schell, a captain, said it helps that most of the Rebels played on the Lansing Redbirds in the summer.
"We want to have a good year and part of that is having good team chemistry," Schell said. "Most of us have played together since we were 8 or 9 years old. We know each other pretty well and we want to have a good year.
"We have a good group of guys and I think we can have a good season."
He said as a captain, part of his job is to make sure the chemistry is there.
"You lead by going out and doing your job and making sure you do what it takes," Schell said. "That might be picking up another teammate after a bad play or encouraging them.
"We have a lot of leaders on the team."