High school baseball: Despite inexperience, Woodstock North looks to make run in KRC

WOODSTOCK – Woodstock North has recorded a solid first half of the season and put itself in the thick of the Kishwaukee River Conference race.

But what Thunder coach John Oslovich may like most about his young team is its attitude after facing adversity.

When North started 0-4, the players came to Oslovich and asked for more time in the cages.

Last week, after the Thunder dropped two out of three to Woodstock, it was the same reaction.

“That’s not something that was ever asked. That’s on them,” Oslovich said. “Outside of practice times, none of the past teams ever asked to do that, but this team did. Even days when we were going to consider light work or off days, they’d say, ‘Coach, can you come in and open up the cage for an hour?’ Or they ask to go outside and hit for an hour. Obviously, you say, ‘Yes.’ Who’s going to turn that down?”

North (8-7, 6-3 KRC) was trailing Burlington Central, 2-0, heading into the bottom of the third inning Monday when lightning forced suspension of the game. The teams first will play their regular game Tuesday in Burlington. If time allows, they might start up their suspended game in the bottom of the third.

More likely, Burlington will come back to Woodstock to finish the game Wednesday, then again make the trip for the series’ final game Thursday.

“We came off that rough start; we regrouped really good; we molded to each other,” third baseman-pitcher Jacob Laha said. “We just had a different playing style coming into conference. We came in for earlier work and took it a lot more seriously. We were tired of losing.”

The Thunder won six consecutive games before Woodstock ended that run.

“We put in the effort,” infielder-pitcher Brayden Klesch said. “We were doing it before, but we were focused on trying to get better. We’ve been pretty consistent since then.”

Laha is the only senior playing. Two other seniors were knocked out before the season with injuries. Kyle Knauss, the other senior on the roster with Laha, was lost for the season with an injury in the first week.

“We’re a group of young guys, and we have a lot of talent,” sophomore shortstop-pitcher Felipe De Avila said. “It’s promising for the future. It’s exciting. We should be successful down the road in the next couple of years.”

Klesch (.457 batting average, 11 RBIs, a team-high 21 runs), De Avila (.481, team-high 17 RBIs, 11 extra-base hits) and Laha (.409, 14 RBIs) have sparked the offense from the top three spots.

Klesch is a junior, and De Avila started on varsity last season at second base. Both play in the summer for Next Level in Huntley. De Avila has five doubles, five triples and a home run.

“[De Avila] is extremely focused, he’s ready to play,” Oslovich said. “He’s the first guy in the gym; he’s the last guy to leave. He’s the first guy that sets up his tee, the first guy to throw [batting practice] to somebody. He came in a more polished player than we normally have as a freshman coming in here.”

This week’s series with current KRC leader Burlington Central, and the May 7 to 9 set with Richmond-Burton (now tied with North for second) will be crucial in the conference race.

“It really shows the capability that we have, competing for the conference championship,” Klesch said.

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