BOLINGBROOK – Downers Grove North’s record-setting season was down to its final two outs May 27.
One swing from Jimmy Janicki changed all that.
The junior cranked a two-run walk-off homer to left to give the Trojans a 5-4 victory over Hinsdale Central for the Class 4A Bolingbrook Regional championship.
”It’s crazy. Seeing George get on with that hit up the middle, I knew I had to do something. As I recall, I knew they’d probably go offspeed. That was basically all I’d been getting. I don’t get too many fastballs from these guys. I was gearing up for that and just ripped it.— Jimmy Janicki, Downers Grove North
Downers North (32-4) captured its 17th victory in a row and first regional title since 2015. The Trojans, who advanced to the Romeoville Sectional semifinals against Oswego East, beat Hinsdale Central for the fourth time this spring.
Janicki’s heroics came after George Wolkow lined a base hit up the middle with one out in the bottom of the seventh. It was the sixth round-tripper for the Troy University commit.
“It’s crazy,” Janicki said. “Seeing George get on with that hit up the middle, I knew I had to do something. As I recall, I knew they’d probably go offspeed. That was basically all I’d been getting. I don’t get too many fastballs from these guys. I was gearing up for that and just ripped it.
”I never lost faith in these guys. This is awesome. These guys, we are a brotherhood here and it’s a great feeling to bring a regional title to this community.”
Wolkow also played a major role in the Trojans’ two-run fifth as the home team clawed its way back from an early 4-0 deficit. Wolkow’s RBI double off the left-field wall pulled the Trojans to within two and he later came around to score on a RBI single from Janicki.
”Our motto this season has been never give up,” Wolkow said. “No matter what the situation is. We’ve had three or four games this season where we came back in the seventh.
”I didn’t doubt our team once and that speaks to how much we love each other and how much we love this game. It’s been such an unbelievable season. I can’t really explain it. But doing it with guys you grew up with makes it even better.”
Joseph Chiarelli was the winning pitcher after tossing a scoreless top of the seventh. He came on in relief of starter Sean Ryniec, who held Hinsdale Central to just two hits over his final five frames after yielding four runs in the first.
Janicki had an RBI double to put the Trojans on the board in the bottom of the first.
”Before we batted, we just said that you’ve got to believe,” said Downers North coach Kyle Briscoe, whose team has set the program record for wins in a season while collecting its first West Suburban Silver title since 2001. “We’ve said that all year long. And then just be you. We’ve had a successful year. We had 30 wins and that’s not a mistake. And we’ve come back multiple times before.
”These guys never give up. When they are in big situations, they step up and deliver when it counts.”
As for why the Trojans were on the cusp of elimination, it was because of the right arm of Hinsdale Central’s William Ho. The senior right-hander was outstanding, mixing in a change-up and slider with his 88-mph fastball to keep the opposition off balance.
Ho, who struck out 10, was given a 4-0 lead in the first after five opposite-field hits. Ben Oosterbaan notched an RBI double and Max Merlo, Luke Jurack and Gavin Vande Lune all followed with RBI singles.
The Red Devils finished with a 19-15 record.
”Ho battled,” Hinsdale Central coach Jason Ziemer said. “He wanted the ball in the seventh inning. When a kid wants the ball and has been pitching well, you give him the ball. He had good stuff. Our kids battled, played really hard.
”Downers is a really good team. They have a great offense. We knew that. We needed more than four runs.”