St. Charles East junior Brannon Barry’s baseball juices start flowing when a hard-to-reach ball comes hurtling toward right field.
“My favorite thing is getting that ball that you track and it’s right at your perfect dive length, and you completely lay out,” Barry said. “Or get next to the fence and catch the ball, which has happened to me a couple times. I’ve bent our fence a little bit. That’s probably one of my favorite things, other than winning.”
Spoken like a true wide receiver.
Barry, a 6-foot-4 football standout with excellent wheels, has put his athleticism to good use for East’s baseball team in his first season as a right fielder. Barry and the Saints will face Wheaton North in today’s IHSA Class 4A sectional championship game at East.
Barry’s sparkling play in right field has been a major plus defensively for the Saints, but he found himself in a multi-player battle for playing time as the season began. East coach Len Asquini acknowledged “it was kind of an open door” in right field the first couple weeks of the season, and the coaching staff even contemplated putting Barry’s height to use at first base.
But senior Brian Sobieski manned first base ably, and Barry – more of a center fielder in his past – proved a quick study at adjusting to the angles in right field. While occasionally sitting on the bench as the competition played out wasn’t easy on Barry, he understood the need to prove himself.
“Obviously you want to go in to it with a lot of confidence that it should be your spot and everything,” Barry said. “I think it was more of a [healthy competition] because we’re so deep. I was confident I could perform and I could help the team out, and was just waiting for my opportunity, and it just worked out that I got it.”
While the choice to slot Barry in right field might not have been a no-brainer, keeping him there as the season unfolded has been.
“He’s caught everything out there,” Asquini said. “He has that mentality that nothing is going to drop and he does whatever he can to make sure he gets the ball into his mitt.”
Offense doesn’t come as naturally to Barry but the left-handed hitter’s speed “gives us some options,” Asquini said. He’s shown the occasional ability to drive the ball and, after bouncing between a few spots in East’s order, has landed in the No. 6 hole.
East is riding high after Wednesday’s 6-0 blanking of top-seeded Lake Park in the sectional semifinal but today’s matchup with third-seeded Wheaton North isn’t expected to go quite so seamlessly. Senior left-hander Nick Huskisson is in line to start on the mound for East.
“We are going to have to play our best game Saturday in order to [win],” Asquini said. “They’re going to force you to do that. They’re not going to make mistakes. We got a little bit of a blessing there with Lake Park with them kicking the ball around a little bit. I do not anticipate that happening with Wheaton North at all.”
The Saints hope they’re not planning out the summer season any time soon but when the time comes, Asquini said Barry is likely to shift back to center field, as current starter Anthony Sciarrino graduates.
As usual, Barry will juggle his football workouts with baseball this summer. His football recruitment is heating up, and he’s expecting to attend numerous college camps this summer, including one at Western Michigan, where his big sister, Erienne, will play volleyball.
“I have to go out there and earn [a scholarship], which is what I’ve been working for,” Barry said.
After this spring, Barry knows all about earning his spot.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.