Baseball: Janicki thrives behind the plate for conference, sectional champion Downers Grove North

Jimmy Janicki enjoyed a senior season to remember.

Last fall, Janicki started at linebacker and punter for Downers Grove North’s football team that advanced to the Class 7A state championship game and finished as the state runner-up to Mt. Carmel.

This spring, Janicki turned it up a notch as the starting catcher for the Trojans.

Along with fellow Division 1 recruit Jude Warwick (Michigan State), ace pitcher Ben Llewellyn, and junior Brady Schallmoser, Janicki helped lead the Trojans to back-to-back West Suburban Conference Silver Division and Class 4A regional championships, as well as their first sectional title in 20 years (2004).

For his efforts, Janicki, who batted .421 with a team-high 7 home runs and 48 RBI, has been named Captain of the Daily Herald’s 2024 DuPage All-Area baseball team.

Last season, the Trojans earned their first 4A regional title since 2015 with a 5-4 victory over Hinsdale Central – on Janicki’s 2-run, walk-off home run.

“That’s one of my most memorable moments,” said Janicki, who earned IHSBCA all-state honors as a junior. “It felt so good – like being on top of the world.”

This season, Janicki continued making life difficult for opposing teams – both at the plate and behind the plate.

“Jimmy automatically shut down the running game,” said Trojans coach Kyle Briscoe. “Teams didn’t even try, no matter who was on the mound.”

When teams tempted fate, they were sorry.

“In our supersectional game, Edwardsville tried to steal a base in the first inning,” said Briscoe. “The guy was thrown out by four feet.”

Earlier in the season, Janicki hit home runs in the second and third games of the Trojans’ 3-game sweep of Oak Park-River Forest.

Janicki, who will continue his collegiate baseball career at Troy University in Alabama, recalled his early days at Downers Grove North.

“I remember walking in as a scared freshman,” said Janicki. “The coaching staff took me in and treated me like family. They taught me as much about life as baseball.”

“We knew of him coming in as an eighth-grader,” said Briscoe. “We knew he was good.

“After his freshman year, I had a conversation with his mom and dad about joining our varsity baseball team. They were a little reluctant at first because the same thing happened in football, and he didn’t get as much playing time. I told them he was going to be our starting catcher as a sophomore and play 35 games. It all worked out.”

Janicki made sure he remained as the Trojans’ starting catcher the next three years.

“Jimmy has gotten better each year,” said Briscoe. “He has spent a lot of time in the weight room.

“During our spring trip to Nashville, we played a couple night games that didn’t end until around 10 p.m.,” said the coach. “While the other guys went to eat and relax, Jimmy hit the gym to lift weights afterward. That’s his routine and commitment to his body.”

“I practice and work out every day in the offseason – a lot of early mornings,” said Janicki.

Briscoe penciled Janicki into the Trojans’ starting lineup at catcher for 36 of their 38 games.

“He reminds me of AJ Pierzynski – a big target who would take a lot of foul balls off his body,” said the coach. “He’s a tough kid. He’s been our catcher for three years.

“This year, we seldom used the pitch-com. We trusted him to call pitches. We’ve been spoiled.”

There’s no better position on the field for Janicki.

“I like being in control,” he said. “I pitched a good amount when I was younger, but it’s just too tough to pitch and catch as I’ve gotten older.

“I just try to be a wall behind the plate, framing and stealing strikes for my pitcher.”

As a kid, Janicki played plenty of baseball and football.

“My parents said I grew up with a ball in my hands,” he said. “I’m used to having no breaks.”

That work ethic, among other things, showed on the baseball diamond.

“I’ll always have memories of the practices,” said Briscoe. “He always had a good rapport with us (coaches). He has a great personality, and he’s an older soul – even some of his music. He’ll listen to Merle Haggard.

“He doesn’t think too much of himself.”

Over the last two seasons, the Trojans own a record of 62-13 with back-to-back 30-win campaigns.

“Jimmy has left his mark on this program,” said Briscoe.

Janicki will have a short break before departing for Troy on June 23.

“I’m looking forward to a new chapter,” said Janicki, who plans on studying criminal justice at the Alabama school. “My coaches want me at 230-235 (pounds), so I’ll continue hitting the weight room.”

  Jimmy Janicki is the Daily Herald 2024 DuPage County All-Area baseball captain. He poses on the Downers Grove North baseball field. John Starks/
Downers Grove North’s Jimmy Janicki gets tagged out at first base after making contact with the ball during the game against Downers Grove South on Saturday April 13, 2024. David Toney for Shaw Local News Network
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.