Baseball: Burlington Central’s AJ Payton continues tear with 8 RBIs in win over Crystal Lake South

Burlington Central's Andrew Payton celebrates his grand slam home run with coach Kyle Nelson during a Fox Valley Conference baseball game against Crystal Lake South on Friday, April 12, 2024, at Burlington Central High School.

BURLINGTON – Facing Burlington Central first baseman AJ Payton with runners on base has not been ending well for opponents.

“He’s just been on everything recently,” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said. “He’s been on a tear for the last two weeks. Since we got back from South Carolina [over spring break], he’s really been swinging it.”

Central leadoff man Michael Person shared similar thoughts.

“He’s been all over the baseball lately,” Person said. “He’s been killing it, driving it to all parts of the field.”

Payton came up with the bases loaded and the wind blowing out in the second inning against Crystal Lake South and ripped the first pitch he saw from the Gators’ Yandel Ramirez over the left-field fence for a grand slam.

Payton knocked in eight runs, with an RBI in all four of his at-bats, as the Rockets beat South 13-3 in five innings in their Fox Valley Conference game on Friday. Central moved to 8-4, 4-2 in the FVC, South fell to 8-3, 3-3.

Burlington Central's Andrew Payton is mobbed by his teammates after he hit a rand slam during a Fox Valley Conference baseball game on Friday, April 12, 2024, at Burlington Central High School.

“I’m just getting out there and jumping on the fastball early on, not getting into deep counts. Just getting up there and swinging it, not letting any good pitches get by me.

“I was pretty surprised they went first-pitch fastball, but once I saw it I knew that was going to be my pitch.”

Payton saw a total of nine pitches and went 3 for 3 with a sacrifice fly for his eight RBIs. He singled in a run in the first and two more in the third.

“We were tracking it in the dugout,” Payton said. “It’s pretty cool to get that opportunity to have people on base every single time up.”

Central starter Brady Gilroy went four innings, striking out four and allowing two earned runs. South’s CJ Regillio blasted a three-run homer in the first for the Gators’ only runs.

“We have a relatively small park, the wind usually blows in here,” Nelson said. “When it blows out, it plays really small. I told them before the game, no matter what happens, you give up a couple home runs, they’re going to happen, we’re going to get the same thing on our end too.

“Brady gave up the three-run homer in the first, but we were going to get a couple of those as well.”

Crystal Lake South's James Carlson can’t come up with the catch during a Fox Valley Conference baseball game against Burlington Central on Friday, April 12, 2024, at Burlington Central High School.

Elliot Alicea homered in the third for the Rockets, while Person was 1 for 1 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and scored four times.

“All the credit in the world to the guys behind me,” Person said. “I feel confident they’re going to get me around and I’m going to score.”

Nico Sherry pitched the fifth for Central and struck out three.

South did not have a hit after the second inning and finished with three total.

“We’ve had a couple rough games,” Regillio said. “We put together a win yesterday [3-1 over Dundee-Crown], but we need to do better at picking each other up and staying up in the dugout. We just need to play better as a team.”

Burliington Central 13, Crystal Lake South 3 (5 inn.)
CL South 300 00 – 3 3 3
Burlington Central 144 04 – 13 12 3
WP: Brady Gilroy (4IP, 3H, 3R, 2ER, 1BB, 4K). LP: Yandel Ramirez (2.1IP, 6H, 5R, 1ER, 2BB 0K).
Top hitters–CL South: CJ Regillio 1-3 (HR, 3RBIs). Burlington Central: AJ Payton 3-3 (GS, 8RBIs), Michael Person 1-1 (4R, RBI), Elliot Alicea 1-4 (HR, RBI), Gilroy 2-3 (2R).