ST. CHARLES – Brodey Harper’s junior year at Kaneland could have looked much different if he followed through on what he initially considered.
“There was a time where I was thinking about quitting [baseball]," Harper said.
The Knights are glad he didn't.
Harper hit the go-ahead single in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday, and Kaneland went on to a 4-2 win over Hampshire in the St. Charles East Regional semifinal of the IHSBCA Phil Lawler summer state tournament.
“All the varsity guys, all the seniors, last year were great,” Harper said. “I tried to compete for a spot, tried to beat guys out, but it just couldn’t happen. I was like ‘maybe I should let it go.’”
Harper, who will be a senior this fall, had more positive second thoughts since then. He also balances travel baseball with the Aurora Thunder, thinking he’d stick with them more consistently.
“I realized, you know what? I’m going to be just like them [the seniors]," Harper said. "People are going to count on me, so I’m sticking with it.”
With the win, Kaneland advanced to play Geneva in Thursday's 3 p.m. regional final.
Harper is obviously pleased with his decision to stay.
“I don’t know what I’d do [If I dropped Kaneland baseball],” Harper said. “I’d probably definitely be at my house hitting in my garage every single day. I can’t just drop baseball; I love it too much.”
The Knights struggled at the plate for much of the early stages of the game, not mustering a hit until a double in the fourth inning. Hampshire built a 1-0 lead on Dylan Petrey’s RBI double in the second inning.
Kaneland took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Michael Rogers' two-run double, but it didn't last long. In the sixth, Hampshire loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Nicholas Rodriguez's RBI double play tied it 2-2, setting the stage for Harper's heroics.
Rogers drove in the Knights' fourth run to round out the scoring.
“I thought we played solid defense,” Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said. “[Starting Pitcher] Nate Goodwin did a nice job, we were throwing strikes. We weren’t giving them a ton of free passes.”
Harper was the hero at the plate, but Mason Kottmeyer did his job starting for the Knights. The rising senior lasted five innings, scattering four hits and two runs while striking out three.
Goodwin went five innings, surrendering two hits and two runs. Hampshire relief pitcher Zach Taylor took the loss.
“My fastball velocity got [where it needed to be] in the beginning,” Kottmeyer said. “Normally, it takes me a couple innings to settle in, but I kind of had that early on and rode it out.”
Kottmeyer, a starting pitcher this past season, won six games and did not suffer a loss.
“I’ve always been a slow pitcher [velocity-wise], basically, Kottmeyer said. “Lately, I’ve been working on getting stronger, getting bigger. That’s gone up, and my success has gone up with that. Next year, it’s going to be fun to see how I’ll do.”