Baseball: York’s Ryan Sloan brilliant in final high school start, but Conant wins 4A semi 1-0

Sloan strikes out eight in six innings, Cougars score game’s lone run in the sixth

York’s Ryan Sloan delivers a pitch against Conant during the Class 4A state baseball semifinal at Duly Health and Care Field on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Joliet.

JOLIET – Ryan Sloan led his York teammates out of the dugout, slowly clapping his hands along the first base line as he watched Conant celebrate wildly in the middle of the pitching mound.

It’s a place Sloan has dominated quite a bit over the last few years. And did one last time for the Dukes on Friday.

York’s fireballing senior, a Wake Forest recruit projected as a first-round pick in the July MLB Draft, was brilliant in the state semifinal.

He struck out eight, and allowed just three hits and a walk. That walk, though, Jake Parpet’s with one out in the sixth inning, came around to score on Isaiah Rhodes’ two-out single in Conant’s 1-0 win over York in the Class 4A semifinal game at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet that lasted 72 minutes.

Sloan has a bright future ahead of him, but that’s not what was on his mind Friday. He was intent on leading York into its first state championship game since 1993, when the Dukes and Sloan’s dad won the Class AA title.

Most of all, though, he enjoyed the experience.

“Really in the moment I’m thinking that I’m just enjoying pitching under the lights, facing a good team,” Sloan said. “But I’m ready to move on and see what the future has for me.”

York (31-10), fourth in Class 4A last season, had only been shut out one time during the regular season. But the Dukes could not break through Friday against Conant junior left-hander Franklin Kirchner.

In the third inning York’s Drew Gami reached on a bunt single and Noah Hughes walked with one out. But Kirchner came back with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the game scoreless. York’s Josh Fleming beat out an infield single with two outs in the sixth, and alertly took second on the play, and Owen Chael walked on four pitches.

But Kirchner retired the next batter on a grounder to Rhodes at first.

York, whose only two hits were infield singles, had one last chance in the seventh as Marco Giorno was hit by a pitch leading off and eventually reached third. But Kirchner got a game-ending fly out to center.

“Our bats went cold tonight. You have to tip your cap to them, their pitcher threw a great game,” York coach Dave Kalal said. “He kept us off-balance the entire game. We had plenty of opportunities. We left [six] runners on base. We had timely hitting in our postseason run but eventually that’s going to come to an end.”

York’s Chris Danko and his Dukes teammates react to their 1-0 loss to Conant during the Class 4A state baseball semifinal at Duly Health and Care Field on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Joliet.

Sloan (2-3), meanwhile, was mowing through Conant’s lineup through five innings. Cooper Hanson was the only Cougar to reach base with a double in the second and a single in the fifth, an inning in which Sloan struck out the side.

Parpet, though, walked with one out in the sixth, just the fifth walk Sloan issued this season. After a sacrifice bunt, Rhodes ran the count to 1-2 against Sloan.

Then the 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior, the all-time RBI leader at Conant, lined an outside slider to center to bring in Parpet as the throw went off line.

“First two at-bats I was a little out in front, but I gained confidence putting the ball in play,” said Rhodes, who grounded out in his first two at-bats. “He threw me a slider and I hit it up the middle.”

It was just the second earned run allowed all season in 46 innings by Sloan.

“The pitch was a little bit hung on my part, definitely could have thrown it away a little bit more,” Sloan said. “I had an extra pitch to work with. But it is what it is.”

Conant’s win was its 14th straight, and puts the Cougars (30-7) – making their first state tournament appearance – into Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game against Providence. The Celtics knocked off two-time defending champion Edwardsville in Friday’s first semifinal.

Conant coach Derek Fivelson, likewise, understood the giant that his team overcame Friday. But he also knew what he had in Kirchner (10-1), who struck out seven in a complete game and allowed three walks in 97 pitches.

“We got on the bus after our supersectional Monday, and we knew what was coming [with Sloan], and the challenge ahead of us,” Fivelson said. “But we knew Franklin would go toe-to-toe with him, and he went toe-to-toe with him, and was the better pitcher tonight.”

York catcher Noah Jones takes the late throw at home as Conant's Jake Parpet scores in the bottom of the sixth inning during the Class 4A state baseball semifinal at Duly Health and Care Field on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Joliet.

York, meanwhile, will play Edwardsville Saturday for third place, completing a marvelous three-year run for Sloan and the Dukes’ seniors.

The Dukes won a sectional title in 2022, and followed that up with back-to-back state appearances for the first time in school history.

“It’s definitely a time I’m going to remember, but I’m excited to move on to the next chapter,” said Sloan, who threw 88 pitches, 61 for strikes. “I think I’ve matured a lot over the last four years.

“It was a well-played game tonight, good defense, they were able to put the ball play. The defense had to step up, and they did a great job with that part that kept us in the game the entire time.”

York pitcher Ryan Sloan pauses between innings in the dugout after giving the game's sole run in the DukesÕ 1-0 loss to Conant during the Class 4A state baseball semifinal at Duly Health and Care Field on Friday, June 7, 2024 in Joliet.
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.