Joliet West’s Ty Batusich started off the season with a flourish in the Don Ladas/WJOL Tournament by smashing multiple home runs and setting the stage for what followed: a lot of walks.
Some of them intentional, some of them otherwise, the Western Kentucky recruit hasn’t exactly had a smorgasbord of good pitches to hit this season.
“He’s a monster in there. This is the equivalent of the high school Barry Bonds in your lineup, they’ll walk him whenever,” Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. “Ty’s a freak. If he’s not one of the two or three best hitters in Illinois, I’d like to see them because we get some support behind him its fun to watch. Every time you’ve got a chance to see the ball leave the yard, possibly. He’s an incredible worker. He’s going to be a great college baseball player and possibly beyond.”
Batusich already has hit six home runs this season and is approaching the 30 RBI mark. He also has about 20 walks, essentially meaning that he’s capitalizing on almost every opportunity he has to push across runs for the Tigers.
“I still think I’m getting a fair amount of pitches to hit, you just have to take your opportunities and hit them when they are there,” Batusich said. “You just can’t miss them when they come.”
He just missed his seventh home run of the season in Thursday’s win over Joliet Central, hitting a laser beam shot into the deepest part of Joliet Central’s field. He showed another element of his all-around game by legging out a triple.
“I was praying it got out,” Batusich said with a laugh. “I had to turn the wheels a little bit there.”
Batusich is working hard to prime all the elements of his game for his arrival at Western Kentucky in the fall. And while he feels he’s worked hard to become a more complete defensive player behind the plate, he’s got one specific goal in mind.
“My goal is to go in there and earn playing time as a freshman,” Batusich said. “Wherever I’m playing in the field is fine with me as long as my bat is in the lineup. That’s all that matters to me.”
The Lincoln-Way East pitching staff has been a consistent force this season, as the Griffins have gotten off to a strong start.
Collectively, the Griffins possess a team earned run average that is just over a run per game this year and with some help from good defensive backing, Lincoln-Way East has held 13 opponents this season to two runs or fewer.
And it truly is a collective effort. Lincoln-Way East routinely has used eight pitchers this season and it has created a bit of an unexpected problem: keeping everyone sharp.
Lincoln-Way East’s steady stream of games dried up over the past week affording them few opportunities to get their abundant pitching staff the work it needed. Wednesday’s win over Crete-Monee saw four different pitchers throw and that’s a practice the Griffins may need to continue.
“We do feel like our pitching depth is the deepest that its been in the four years that we’ve been here. We have a lot of guys we feel confident putting out there. We feel really good about a lot of our guys,” Lincoln-Way East coach Eric Brauer said. “What is complicated is that you’ve got to extend guys, because at some point you’ve got to have someone give you four, five, six innings. But then also making sure we keep guys fresh. It does create some situations. We’ve done our best, but its not perfect.”
What it may lead to is Lincoln-Way East having an ace up its sleeve to dispatch for what may be a wild condensed postseason. Regionals and sectionals won’t be spread out over longer periods of time this season, so teams with deep pitching, especially if weather reeks havoc on an already tight postseason calendar, will have a particular advantage.
Speaking of the postseason, the IHSA’s brackets will be released next week.
Teams are scheduled to seed Tuesday with the full postseason pairings released either Wednesday or Thursday.
Among the various differences this postseason are no traditional regional or sectional sites, with higher seeds hosting throughout the process. Regionals will be played from June 2 to 7. Sectionals will be contested June 9 to 12 and supersectionals paired off June 14.
The state tournaments also appear to be one-day events with the semifinal rounds being held early in the day and the third place and championship matchups being played later in the day and into the evening. The Class 1A finals will be held at Illinois State on June 17, while the Class 3A finals will be held June 17 at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium. The Class 2A finals are June 18 at Illinois State, while the Class 4A finals will be played June 19 at DuPage Medical Field in Joliet.