June 20, 2024
Illinois High School Sports

Baseball: Patrick Connors, Hinsdale Central ride eight-run first past Oswego in regional semifinal

Red Devils’ sophomore has leadoff triple, three-run double in big inning in 12-2 win

Hinsdale Central's Patrick Connors (5) reacts after hitting a triple against Oswego during a Class 4A Waubonsie Valley Regional semifinal baseball game at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

AURORA – Patrick Connors is OK watching a few pitches go by, but the Hinsdale Central sophomore’s preference is not to be passive at the pate.

“If it’s right down the middle,” Connors said, “I’m going to crush it. Other than that first at-bat I’m looking first-pitch fastball.”

Connors has set the tone for Hinsdale Central all season from the leadoff spot with that aggressive attitude. And sure did so Wednesday.

Connors tripled to lead off the game and doubled in three runs during the Red Devils’ eight-run first inning. He doubled in another run for good measure in the second, and 10th-seeded Hinsdale Central went on to a 12-2, five-inning win over sixth-seeded Oswego in the Class 4A Waubonsie Valley Regional semifinal.

“We came out hot, and we have been coming out hot the last few games,” Connors said. “Our last game, against St. Rita, we came out hot and won on a walk-off. We struggled a little bit at midseason but we’ve started to get hot going into the playoffs, which is what we wanted.”

Luke Jurack added a three-run homer in a four-run second and Aidan Conners struck out six over five strong innings for Hinsdale Central (18-17), which advances to face Waubonsie Valley in Saturday’s regional final.

Windy conditions made balls in the air an adventure throughout, starting with the first batter of the game.

Connors lifted a fly ball the opposite way that the Oswego right fielder appeared to over-run in the wind, and the ball dropped just inside the line fair.

“I saw the ball in the air, saw the wind taking it and thought he is not going to catch that because he was not perfectly under it,” Connors said. “It seemed like that the whole game. The ball was flying.”

Hinsdale Central's Patrick Connors (5) hits a two run double  against Oswego during a Class 4A Waubonsie Valley Regional semifinal baseball game at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

They were flying off Hinsdale Central’s bats, the first four batters reaching. Will Kusak doubled in Connors, Tyler Frisoni singled in Kusak and Brayan Hernandez doubled in two runs.

“We came out ready to hit,” Hinsdale Central coach Jason Ziemer said. “Once we got on the field pregame we knew runs would be scored today. The infield is like a springboard and the wind was blowing out.”

Ziemer noted that the big hit of the inning was Connors’ second at-bat, a two-out, three-run double he drilled to deep center that ballooned the lead to 7-0.

Nothing new, coming from Connors.

“Patrick Connors is our spark plug. He is gritty, he is a grinder, he is exactly the type of player I like to coach,” Ziemer said. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s going to be good. The way he approaches the game, the way he plays the game. He will steal second and third in a blink of an eye. He is the player I want leading off.”

On the opposite end, Nick Tickle was the man Oswego (19-13-1) wanted with the ball in a regional game. The senior right-hander has been nails all season, first in a closer role and in mid-April switching to a starter.

But on Wednesday Tickle faced just eight batters, retiring one out, and left with the bases loaded trailing 4-0.

“He’s been great in every role we have put him, he’s responded, done nothing but great things for us,” Oswego coach Joe Giarrante said. “You know how baseball is, though. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game the baseball gods will shine down badly on you.”

Hinsdale Central's Brayan Hernandez (26) doubles after beating the tag at second base by Oswego’s Gabriel Herrera (8) during a Class 4A Waubonsie Valley Regional semifinal baseball game at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Oswego got two runs back in its half of the first on Dylan King’s RBI double and Donovan Williams’ RBI double.

But Hinsdale Central answered with a four-run second, the big hit Jurack’s three-run homer.

“It deflated us a little bit,” Giarrante said. “That second inning put us more behind the eight-ball.”

Conners shut the door from there with four shutout innings, scattering six hits, a walk and a hit batter.

“Aidan is a veteran. He’s pitched in big games last and this year,” Ziemer said. “He’s a strike-thrower, can throw three different pitches for strikes. On a day like today where you don’t want to walk guys, that’s important.”

Oswego, coming off back-to-back sectional final appearances, could take satisfaction from a 19-win season with a junior-dominant lineup. Its own sophomore leadoff hitter, shortstop Kam Jenkins, reached base twice Wednesday.

“It wasn’t our day, but we had a successful season,” Giarrante said. “We’ve got to learn from this and make improvements.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.