Baseball: Spring ignites another championship season for St. Charles North

Having a dependable shortstop helps make a high school baseball coach’s job a whole lot easier.

Having a dependable shortstop like Jackson Spring around the past 3-plus seasons made St. Charles North baseball coach Todd Genke’s job a whole lot easier.

“Jackson was the first guy here at practice and the last guy to leave,” said Genke, who guided the North Stars to a 28-6 record that included a DuKane Conference title and Class 4A regional championship. “Through his own hard work, he became one of the best shortstops in the state.”

Spring, who batted .400 with a team-high 48 hits in 36 games, along with 3 home runs, 9 doubles, and 24 RBI out of the leadoff spot in the North Stars’ batting order, is the Captain of the Daily Herald’s 2024 Fox All-Area baseball team.

Thrust into the leadoff spot as a junior last season, Spring provided exactly what Genke was looking for at the top of the lineup.

“We wanted to jump-start our offense,” said Genke. “It is tricky because a lot of times you want one of your best hitters in the 3- or 5-hole, but we loved the way he started games for us last year. Obviously, he had a lot of success there, and we decided jump-starting the game was more valuable for us.”

Ironically, Spring wasn’t the biggest fan of the decision to bat leadoff his junior year.

“At the start, I really didn’t like it when I saw my name listed first on the lineup card,” he said. “I started seeing the first pitch of games, swinging, and getting hits. I accepted it, gained confidence, and learned how to adjust to it.”

This season, Spring became the North Stars’ catalyst, with astonishing numbers that included a .520 on-base percentage, .550 slugging percentage, and a 1.070 on-base plus slugging percentage. In addition to drawing 27 walks, he finished with 28 stolen bases – enjoying a 94% success rate.

“There were a lot of times where he led off games with a double in the gap,” said Genke. “He was our igniter.”

Born in Charleston, S.C., Spring moved to Illinois and attended West Dundee Middle School before heading to St. Charles before his freshman year.

“I was always smaller when I was little,” said Spring, who will turn 18 in August. “I was never a big kid, but I had solid mechanics, relying on my speed and defense. I was a big contact hitter.”

“Jackson was a skinny infielder coming into our program,” said Genke. “We knew he had talent but there were questions.

“We brought him up for the playoffs during his freshman year. You could tell he wanted it.”

Three years later, Spring worked his way into becoming a staple in the North Stars’ program.

“You don’t get kids like him very often with his coachability and flexibility,” said Genke. “He struggled a bit early defensively at first with his left and right movements, but he put in the time to get better. He’d come in and take extra groundballs and work on his footwork.

“Our infield coaches, Gregg Wikierak and Brett Wikierak, did a tremendous job with him. Jackson could always hit, but he showed the most growth defensively.”

Spring, who came from a golfing background – “my dad played professionally when I was young,” and played golf all 4 years at St. Charles North, as well as basketball into his junior season, fell in love with baseball.

“I think his golfing background helped his mindset in baseball,” said Genke.

“I remember playing travel baseball when I was 11 years old,” said Spring. “The coaches had us switch positions to keep us on our toes. I fell in love with playing shortstop. It’s a huge challenge – there’s a lot to it.”

Spring was more than up for the challenge.

“Jackson became one of the best leaders in the history of our program,” said Genke. “It’s a credit to him and guys like Nick DeMarco (Notre Dame), who helped him when Nick was a senior and Jackson was a freshman.

“Jackson wanted to be a leader like him (DeMarco) on the field. The passing of the flame was a huge development for us.”

Spring’s senior season included several highlights.

“Of course, the two walk-offs against (St. Charles) East,” said Spring. “I got to experience playing at Kane County for the first time. Overall, high school baseball was such a unique experience playing with guys you’ve been around for years. It means so much more.”

Spring began postseason play with a walk-off RBI single during the North Stars’ come-from-behind, 8-7 regional semifinal victory over Glenbard West – sealing Genke’s 500th career win.

“That was pretty special,” he said. “I can’t thank my coaches enough for what they’ve given back to the program. I loved being around them.”

This fall, Spring will take his talents to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“I was impressed with their tradition,” said Spring, who is leaning toward studying business/finance. “It was a difficult decision, but I wanted the chance to play right away.”

UW-Whitewater recently placed second in the NCAA Division III World Series.

“I’ll embrace the competition,” said Spring.

“I’m excited for him to wear the purple,” said Genke, a UW-Whitewater alum, and Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. “It’ll be a challenge for him, but I’m not a bit worried. They’re getting a gem of a player.

“I can’t say how lucky I am to have been able to coach a player like Jackson Spring. He has been a tremendous role model for our program.”

St. Charles North’s Jackson Spring is safe under the glove of Batavia’s Ryan Boe during a game at St. Charles North on Monday, April 15, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
  St. Charles North’s Jackson Spring (22) gets. Lake Park’s Jacob Folkes out at second during Friday’s baseball game in St. Charles. Paul Valade/
  Wheaton Warrenville South’s Jason Harman slides safely into second base as St. Charles North’s Jackson Spring applies the tag during Tuesday’s game in St. Charles. The ball popped loose on the play. Paul Valade/
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