It was all getting a bit too routine, which seems funny to say about watching home run baseballs being driven over the outfield fence with authority.
But after so many of them, Anthony Drago and his Lake Zurich teammates were ready to change up their own routine. Instead of greeting Nick Jones at home plate with cheers and high-fives after yet another of his homers for the Bears, they sat motionless in the dugout, quiet and ho-hum.
Contact information ( * required )
"We were giving Nick the silent treatment," Drago laughed. "We were just messing with him. I mean, going out to home plate like we usually do was getting old. We needed to do something different. We had already been out there two other times that game already."
That's right, Jones was circling the bases for the third time in the same game, which was, of course, anything but ho-hum or routine. In fact, Jones' spectacular game against Antioch last Friday not only ranks among the best offensive outputs in Lake Zurich history, it came as part of a mind-blowing week that likely stands among the best power-hitting stretches ever for a high school baseball player in Lake County.
"That was definitely pretty special. I think maybe the baseball gods were looking over me," Jones said of his weeklong love affair with the long ball. "Something like that is what you dream of when you're a kid."
In all, Jones, a junior outfielder and pitcher for the Bears and a first-year varsity player, belted a whopping 6 home runs last week, three against Antioch, two against Zion-Benton and one against Mundelein.
His numbers on the week were: 12 at-bats, 7 hits, 6 home runs, 11 RBI, 9 runs scored and a batting average of .583.
"As you watched it all, you just couldn't believe it was happening, especially during the Antioch game," Lake Zurich coach Gary Simon said. "We've had a guy hit 2 home runs in one inning before, but never 3 homers in one game and never a total of 6 homers on three consecutive days. It's just a phenomenal feat."
Jones added to his gaudy total on Wednesday when he hit a home run against Huntley, his eighth dinger of the season. He is now hitting better than .400 overall.
Lake Zurich, which got off to a slow start this season, has thrived during Jones' hot streak, winning five of its last seven games.
"I'm really glad I've been able to help the team," Jones said. "It was great to see the smiles on my teammates' faces and it was cool to hear the crowd and watch each time as the ball went over the fence. I'm sure everyone was thinking, 'He's not going to hit another one. I mean, one, two, sure. But a third one in the same game? That's crazy. There were a bunch of goose bumps when I ran around the bases.
"My Dad (Bob) got a couple of the homers on video and you could hear my Mom (Deb) say, 'There's no way. There's no way that's going over again."
Deep down, Jones was just as astonished that the home runs kept piling up in the Antioch game and over the course of the week. Since his youth days, he's always been a good hitter, but his power numbers were never off the charts.
"I've never been known as a home run hitter," Jones said. "But this year, things have just really started to click for me. I'm seeing the ball better and my swing is a lot smoother. I had been working a lot with Coach Simon, and his big tip for me was to really track the ball, to keep my head on it and watch the ball the entire time, even if the pitch is a ball. He told me to watch the ball into the mitt.
"I had the tendency to swing and look away. Now, my eyes are following the ball the whole time and that has really helped."
Another thing that has helped Jones is his position in the lineup.
He bats third for the Bears, ahead of a bear of a trio of three-year varsity veterans who are all known for their hitting prowess. Drago, who bats fourth and hit his second homer in as many days on Wednesday, is headed to the University of Illinois. Next up is Dom DeMicco, who will play at Judson College next year. And Tanner Kiser, who bats sixth, will be playing at Oakton Junior College.
Before Jones put himself on the map with all of his home runs, he was seeing plenty of good pitches, as opposing pitchers feared what lurked behind him even more.
"We have a pretty powerful lineup," Jones said. "And when you hit in front of a Division I player like Anthony, you're going to see some good pitches because no one wants to pitch to him. I've been looking for fastballs and I've been getting them. I think I'm really playing to my strengths."
Jones also plays to his strengths on the ice.
He's a serious hockey player and has been part of an elite traveling program for years. If he were lucky enough to someday have the opportunity to play either baseball or hockey in college, Jones isn't sure which direction he'd go.
"Whatever sport is in season, that's the sport I love the most," said Jones, who missed 10 weeks of last winter's hockey season with a broken collar bone but couldn't wait to get back on the ice. "I love hockey. I've been playing since I learned to skate when I was 8. But I also love baseball, too. I don't know how I'll make up my mind."
Drago, who knows a thing or two about being recruited for baseball, has some advice for his buddy. He'd like to see Jones pick baseball. He's already recommended Jones to his travel coach from Top Tier for the upcoming season.
"I really don't see Nick picking hockey because I think he'll realize how much talent and potential he has in baseball," Drago said. "I talked with him the other day about this, and so did my Dad. If he can commit to a top travel team for baseball and get some exposure there, he's going to hear from a lot of (college coaches). I could really see him doing something in Division I baseball."
Whatever that something might be for Jones, it may never top his feat against Antioch last week, or his teammates' unexpected response to it.
"The silent treatment was pretty funny," Jones said. "They even made me pick up my own bat when I got back (from running the bases). But I laughed about it. It's always fun when you can come through for the team."