Baseball: Jno-Baptiste, Vojack lift Barrington over McHenry
Barrington junior Evan Jno-Baptiste is not your traditional bottom of the order hitter.
Blessed with quick hands to go with next-level speed, Jno-Baptiste gives the Broncos a rare powerful and productive hitter in the No. 9 spot.
Baptiste was among several Broncos to spark the offense Friday, lacing a 2-run double to left-field in the bottom of the second inning in a 4-0 win over McHenry in a Class 4A baseball regional semifinal in Barrington.
The third-seeded Broncos (21-4) advance to play at No. 2 Mundelein in the regional finals on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Besides igniting a 3-run second inning, Jno-Baptiste tracked down several balls in center field to keep the Warriors (18-18) scoreless. Jno-Baptiste said he feels comfortable batting in the ninth spot compared to the leadoff position.
"I saw runners on base and tried not to do much and tried to stay calm and relax," Jno-Baptiste said of his double. "I feel like in the nine-spot that I don't press and just let the game come to me and relax in the box. When I hit leadoff, I tend to press. I just have to work on relaxing more.
"I've batted leadoff quite a bit this year. It's not that different, but as a leadoff hitter, you have to get on base and there can be more pressure."
Barrington coach Pat Wire said Jno-Baptiste is a viable two-player for the Mid-Suburban League West champions.
"For whatever reason, (Evan) produces at the bottom of the order," Wire said. "I love it. He had that key double for us to give us that lift and also dropped a bunt. He's showing he's a complete player. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter, and he catches everything in the outfield and is a tremendous defender."
Barrington senior right-hander Matt Vojack picked up the win, working his way out of two jams behind excellent defensive play. He kept the Warriors off balance with his curveball and worked the plate, scattering 6 hits and striking out 5 in 5 innings. Bruno Pallan and Ryan Koehler closed out the game for the Broncos in the final two innings.
"I felt good and was hitting my spots early and got a lot of help from my defense," Vojack said. "It's great to hand the ball off to a few relievers and they can close out the game."
Koehler, a senior, led the offense with 3 hits and 2 RBI, but the Broncos couldn't extend the lead after leaving 7 runners on base and belting 8 hits.
"Matt came out strong and Bruno pitched great and the bats were hot," Koehler said. "We have to just slow the game down, one hit at a time, and play small ball and play our game. We have a lot of potential."
Wire said the Broncos played a complete game to blank the Warriors, led by Vojack's strong five innings.
"Matt's been awesome all year and did a great job pitching today," Wire said. "We just feel like we were ready to give the ball to the bullpen. We're trying to shorten the game. We have multiple pitchers."
McHenry hurt itself by stranding 9 runners on base in a game that lasted just under 2 hours.
"Early on, we had a lot of chances, but didn't get that big hit and that hurt us and might have changed things," McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. "(Barrington's) pitcher settled in after that. We couldn't seem to string anything together after that. Our seniors over the last year and a half had to deal with a lot, and that will make us strong in the future. Our juniors have to learn from those seniors and the adversity and the things they lost. The seniors were very good examples for the underclassmen. We battled for 21 outs. I'm very proud of the kids."