Baseball: Burlington Central stalls against McHenry ace

McHenry freshman Kaden Wasniewski has been accustomed to mowing down opponents, striking out almost two of every three batters late in games.

Wasniewski ran into some problems against Burlington Central, which put the tying run at second base with no outs in the top of the seventh inning, but he passed the test.

“I got pretty nervous,” Wasniewski said. “I just had to throw some strikes and let them hit it. I felt good. I tried to rely on my fastball.”

Wasniewski got two outs on called third strikes and then ended the game on a flyout to center fielder Jack Stecker as the Warriors defeated the Rockets 6-4 in their Fox Valley Conference baseball game Monday.

“It’s crazy to think (Wasniewski) is a freshman because nothing fazes him,” McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. “We’ve put him in in some really tough spots already, today was kind of his own doing. He doesn’t get rattled.”

Starter Brandon Shannon (4-0) struck out seven over six innings for the Warriors (16-4, 6-3) and had faith in Wasniewski to finish the job against Central (12-6, 7-3).

“He’s been building up my trust a lot, for him to go in and close it down,” Shannon said. “He’s a really good pitcher.”

McHenry scored three in the second inning to give Shannon a 4-0 lead. Donovan Christman had an RBI double and Kamrin Borck singled in a run. The Warriors added two more in the fifth on Payton Sensabaugh’s two-run home run.

Shannon had cruised to that point, allowing only three hits. The Rockets’ Nos. 1 and 2 hitters, Michael Person and Brady Gilroy, both got two-out hits in the third, but Shannon struck out AJ Payton to end that threat.

Central got two-out hits in the sixth from Jake Johnson and Chase Powrozek when Elliot Alicea, a left-handed hitter, hit a grounder to shortstop and was able to beat the throw to first, which scored courtesy runner Nico Mainolfi.

Connor Rubin tripled to right-center field to make it 6-3.

“My slider was not working, so I switched to fastball-curveball,” said Shannon, a junior who had coaches from Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Louisville watching him pitch. “My first five innings I discovered my splitter was working really well, the best it has all season.

“(The sixth) was rough. I was attacking with my fastball on most of the hits and they got under it and got some nice hits. We missed a play at second, not really anybody’s fault (on Alicea). Things went a little down and I beared down and got back at them.”

In the seventh, Gilroy and Payton drew walks off of Wasniewski and Johnson doubled in one run. Wasniewski found the zone with fastballs and got Powrozek and Alicea looking, then got Rubin on a fly ball.

“(Shannon) has a good fastball and his slider is really good, and late in the game he went to his splitter a little bit more,” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said. “Just seeing him a couple times helps. We generally took better at-bats, we need to cut down the number of punchouts we have with runners on second and third with less than two outs.

“We need to go from out at-bat to a team at-bat a little bit more. We hit a couple ground balls there it could be a tie game instead of punching out two times. We have to be able to get one or two of those balls in play and put pressure on them defensively. Right now that’s where the gaps are, we’re not stringing enough at-bats together to put pressure on other teams.”

Wasniewski was 3 for 3 and Owen Mickinghoff was 2 for 4 with an RBI in the first inning.

Shannon had another strong performance, despite his rough finish.

“He was ahead of hitters, throwing all his pitches for strikes,” Rockweiler said. “His splitter was the best it’s been all year.”

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