St. Charles North coach Todd Genke has received glowing comments from opposing coaches about junior catcher Jayden Lobliner.
“Almost every coach that we’ve seen thus far said that he’s the best catcher that they’ve seen, which is a huge feather in his cap,” Genke said after the North Stars’ 6-2 victory over Geneva on Monday. “He’s just a consummate worker. He works so hard back there and does such a tremendous job. He basically shuts down the running game.”
Lobliner, a Kansas State commit, has a team-high 116 putouts as of Thursday as the North Stars’ top catcher for a slew of pitchers including Zach Kempe, Andrew Jimenez, Evan Suyak, Declan McGrath and closer Nick DeMarco.
“The defensive part of my game for me has kind of built my reputation and built where I am today,” Lobliner said. “That’s what I take, clearly, the most pride of. To get some of that recognition from other coaches and my own coaches, for me, it feels like the work I’ve done is continuing to pay off.”
“That’s something that I won’t stop until I get to some of the goals that I have in my baseball career in life,” Lobliner continued. “[The praise] is awesome to hear, but it’s just the beginning for me. It’s exciting, like I said, the hard work pays off and it’s good to see that.”
Offensively, Lobliner is sporting a .317 batting average, .463 slugging and nine runs batted in on the season.
“He’s been phenomenal all year,” Genke continued. “To stop and block some of those balls that [Kempe is] throwing at 92-93 is impressive.”
The varying pitch offerings and styles of the North Stars’ staff is unique to Lobliner.
“I think, personally, that’s why our pitching staff has so much success,” Lobliner said. “Not every guy is throwing the same; I like to stay in-tempo. You watch Zach on the mound [and see] how fast he works. Some of the other guys work a little slower, but each of them have different pitches.”
“A lot of them have that same fire in their determination and motivation on the mound,” Lobliner continued. “You see them...they’re doing everything they can for our team...I appreciate how much those guys work. Each guy, not one [or the] other, every single one of them are just super determined...their focus is like no other and that’s why you see success from each one of them.”
Burlington Central freshman pitching ‘beyond his years’
Burlington Central freshman pitcher Michael Person is “pitching beyond his years” 12 games into the season.
Person leads the Rockets rotation with 18 innings pitched as of Thursday and has a 2-0 in three starts. Person has a rotation-high 29 strikeouts.
“His fastball right now is generally between 83 and 86 [miles per hour] which, for a freshman, is pretty good,” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said. “The thing that’s most impressive about him really...throwing and commanding any pitch in any count.”
“He has four pitches he throws for strikes. He has confidence throwing them in any count,” Nelson said.
During the Rockets’ 3-2 victory over McHenry on April 27, Person exhibited that confidence.
“He shook me [off] the other day. It was a 3-1 count and I called fastball...he shook me to a curveball and threw a curveball over on a 3-1 count with runners in scoring position, so he really has a good understanding of the game,” Nelson continued. “A good understanding of how to pitch and that ability to throw fastball, curveball, slider and changeup for strikes in just about any count is really impressive for someone his age.”
Senior pitcher Aaron Wojciechowski is also eating up innings for the Rockets, coming in second with 16.2 innings pitched. Wojciechowski, a McHenry Community College recruit, has 22 strikeouts and a 2.94 earned run average.
“His fastball took a nice jump between his sophomore year and this year,” Nelson said. “He’s been in the mid upper 80s this year. Struggling with his curveball command a little bit, but had it the other day against Huntley and threw really well against them.”
Wojciechowski struck out nine in five innings despite the loss.
“Aaron is a really hard worker,” Nelson said. “With us being gone from baseball for a year, he definitely took advantage of that time. He didn’t just sit around. He was throwing, he was playing, he was lifting [and] doing all those things he needed to do to get better.”