A few multi-hit games early qualified as a great start. A few more grew into a bona fide hot streak.
Yet a few more tacked onto those games signified a real trend for Prairie Ridge right fielder Bryan Klendworth.
As Klendworth maintained a torrid pace, hitting above .600 for a while, his coaches and teammates marveled at his transformation. As a junior, Klendworth could not crack the lineup every day. As a senior, no one could get him out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid, from one year to the next, improve that much,” Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro said. “He definitely earned it. What he did was special this year.”
Klendworth hit. .508 with 25 extra-base hits and a school-record 64 hits. He was 21 of 25 in stolen base attempts, hit eight home runs and drove in an area-best 45 runs, despite hitting leadoff for the Wolves.
Klendworth is the Northwest Herald Baseball Player of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches. Crystal Lake South pitcher-infielder Tyler Hall, Huntley third baseman-pitcher Bryce Only, Huntley right fielder Mark Skonieczny and Prairie Ridge center fielder Jordan Getzelman also were considered for the honor, but Klendworth’s staggering numbers stood out.
“It felt great. I never really experienced that kind of thing before,” Klendworth said of his blazing start. “I kind of hoped I would carry that on.”
Klendworth’s success story comes from being driven by failures in his past, both in high school and travel baseball. He had a particularly rough time in the fall with a showcase team in Florida, at which point Scott Martini, his personal hitting coach, threatened to quit.
Klendworth said he wanted to keep working with Martini and rededicated himself over the winter. Their four-times-a-week sessions at the McHenry County Hurricanes’ facility usually included 300 swings a night.
Martini figured Klendworth got 20,000 swings through the winter months. When Klendworth was ready for high school practices, Martini said he could not get balls fired by their Iron Mike pitching machine past him, even cranked up at high speeds and short distances.
“I kind of shocked myself [in the season],” Klendworth said. “[Scott] Martini thought I was going to do it. The practice boosted my confidence to a whole other level. With that practice, I also learned things I hadn’t learned before. When I would swing, I would see what I was doing and know what felt right and what felt wrong. I was able to practice better. I believe it’s not quantity, but the quality of practice you have.”
Getzelman, who will play at NCAA Division I Missouri, was inspired watching his teammate.
“It’s such a great story of work and determination,” Getzelman said. “It’s about really pushing yourself to the limit of being what you can be. He obviously had a goal and wanted to achieve it and did everything he could to get there. It’s admirable to see him do that. It sets a good example for me at what I want to accomplish in my life.”
Had it happened earlier, Klendworth, like Getzelman, almost surely would be headed to a D-I school. He signed with NAIA Olivet Nazarene, which now looks like it got a real steal.
“His numbers were off the charts,” Pecoraro said. “I told our kids at awards night, ‘There’s proof in the pudding right there.’ If you want it bad enough, and you’re willing to put in the time in the offseason, you can change yourself around as a player. He had the athletic tools, but he just lacked the confidence and consistency. All that work he put in in the offseason, he was able to get those two things.”
Klendworth, who will play with the Illinois Sparks this summer, broke Casey Weseman’s Prairie Ridge season record for hits (55) and finished with more homers (eight) than strikeouts (seven).
“I think I got out of it what I put into it,” Klendworth said. “I worked my tail off and obviously the numbers kind of speak to themselves. I have no regrets.”