Baseball: Person throws 1-hit shutout for Burlington Central in 3-0 win over Crystal Lake Central

Michael Person ended up being a few inches away from a no-hitter for Burlington Central.

With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Crystal Lake Central’s Sean Kempf hit a dribbler that hugged the third-base line on the infield grass.

As it rolled, Person, catcher Jake Johnson and third baseman Zane Pollack surrounded the ball, waiting for it to roll foul.

Only it never did. Instead, Kempf got on with a base hit. It turned out to be the only one he would allow.

“It was horrible,” Person said. “It was very frustrating for sure, but you can’t be too mad.”

Kempf’s hit was the only one Person allowed in a complete-game shutout as the Rockets got a 3-0 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday in a Fox Valley conference matchup.

Person only allowed one more Tiger to reach, with Nolan Hollander earning a walk in the sixth inning. He finished the game with eight strikeouts and had a 73% (56 of 77 pitches) strike percentage, and even pitched an immaculate inning in the third.

“It felt great today,” he said. “I just went up there trying to throw strikes and put my trust in my teammates today. We didn’t make any errors, so it was great defensive plays today.”

Both teams were also playing with a major crosswind throughout the day, with gusts hitting up to 35 miles per hour. Person, who usually relies on his slider as a go-to pitch, said that after the first six batters of the game got solid contact off his pitches, he put more emphasis on his changeup and curveball, and found a lot more success on the mound.

“My fastballs and changeups were getting a lot more run because of the wind,” Person said. “Usually the changeup is not one of my go-to pitches, but today it was. And I think that kept the hitters off-balance throughout the game.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rockets (10-5, 6-2 Fox Valley Conference) didn’t have to do too much for the win, but Crystal Lake Central pitcher Thomas Korn didn’t make it easy on them. Korn finished the game allowing seven hits and three runs while striking out nine batters across six innings of work.

“He goes out and competes every single day,” Crystal Lake Central coach Cal Aldridge said. “That’s all we ask for our guys to do and he’s done it every game this season. It’s been fun to watch.”

While Korn showed some early success after striking out the side in the first inning, Burlington Central coach Kyle Nelson said that he knew the team had to take a different approach at the plate compared to the one they had in their 13-1 win over the Tigers on Monday.

“We knew it was going to be a tight ball game today, but we knew we had to emphasize small at-bats throughout the game,” Nelson said. “And in a tight game, those small things add up.”

Connor Finn got the Rockets on the board in the second inning after he hit a soft line drive past the second baseman to score Chase Powrozek. Brady Gilroy added two insurance runs afterwards with an RBI single to score Pollack in the third and a solo home run over the left-field wall in the sixth.

“Pitching with a lead always gives you such confidence,” Person said. “I thought we took some great at-bats today and it was great to see.”

After recording 13 runs in the previous game against the Tigers, Nelson said that being on the winning end of a pitching duel is going to be important when it comes to making a run in the postseason.

“You’re going to have to win high scoring games, low scoring games, come from behind or you might have a blowout that you have to hold on to,” Nelson said. “To see a good team and good pitching like that and win a close game like that, that’s huge for our conference.”

Despite the loss, Aldridge felt that the Tigers (6-7, 3-4 FVC) had some solid at-bats at the start of the game and will just need to make sure the at-bats continue to stay solid throughout the game.

“We’re going to be OK,” Aldridge said. “We’re making it day by day with improvements, and we’re going to keep hitting baseballs hard and eventually they’re going to start falling for us.”

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