ST. CHARLES – Aidan Sheehan only pitched in one varsity game this spring as a sophomore, but the memory has stuck with him.
"It was awesome, it was great. A heck of an experience," said Sheehan, a rising junior at Geneva. "I love competing."
That showed Wednesday.
On a Geneva pitching staff that will be replacing quite a few innings next spring, Sheehan's clearly thrown himself in the mix. He threw six sharp innings Wednesday, striking out eight, to send the Vikings past Oswego 3-1 and into the St. Charles East Regional final of the Phil Lawler summer state tournament.
Geneva (4-1) plays Kaneland at 3 p.m. Thursday for the regional title.
The Vikings can thank their pitching for getting them there. Geneva has allowed just one run in three games this week. Zach Chapman, in his first varsity appearance on the mound, threw a scoreless inning to wrap up Wednesday's win.
"The pitching's been great," Geneva coach Brad Wendell said. "Aidan did a great job throwing strikes. That's what we talk about all the time is throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes. The guys have done that all week."
Sheehan threw quite a few innings on Geneva's sophomore team this past spring. He was promoted to the varsity at the end of the year and played some second base. His one outing on the mound, Sheehan threw three innings to earn a win against Lake Park.
Can he be in the mix, pitching-wise, next spring?
"I think he's got to be," Wendell said. "He will be a guy that we will ask to do a lot. Second base, shortstop, pitching. He looked sharp today. He went a little longer than I wanted him to in a summer game, but he told me he felt good."
And he looked good.
Sheehan was nicked for a run in the first inning. Brady Peterlin doubled with two outs, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a double steal.
But Sheehan slammed the door after that.
He allowed just four hits and one walk, with only two runners reaching second base after the first inning. Sheehan located his fastball well and sprinkled in a curveball and changeup in an 89-pitch effort.
"I felt confident I could do it, came into the game ready," said Sheehan, who also had two hits at the plate. "My fastball on the outside corner was very good, my curveball was surprisingly really good. Changeup, didn't throw much but I was able to use it effectively."
Oswego (7-2-1), likewise, received exemplary showings from two junior pitchers.
Devin Hoffman scattered seven hits and three runs over the first five innings, striking out four. John Buckley came on and threw two shutout innings of relief, striking out two.
The Panthers will rely heavily next spring on underclassmen to throw. Tommy Picha, who threw Tuesday this week, is the primary senior pitcher who will return.
"We have a loaded junior class," Oswego coach Joe Giarrante said. "Picha threw yesterday, probably the one returning senior we'll rely on. We'll have a young staff but they all compete and throw strikes. I have a lot of confidence when I put them on the mound."
Geneva tied it 1-1 in the second inning, as Michael Klazura singled and scored on a two-out wild pitch.
Brian Wrenn doubled to lead off the Geneva fifth, and was still on second base with two out. Ryan Stempowski worked the count full, then served an opposite-field single to right-center to bring in the go-ahead run.
That's the kind of situational hitting Wendell has grown accustomed to seeing from his shortstop.
"He's a good hitter, he was in the spring and he's maturing," Wendell said. "He's been able to take some outside pitches that way and got a couple base hits this week in key situations."
Joey Maynard, who just missed a three-run homer in his second at-bat, followed by drilling an RBI double into the right field corner to make it 3-1.
"Maynard has been killing the ball," Wendell said of his rising junior catcher. "He's worked his tail off and just keeps getting better and better.
Oswego, missing a few starters including Illinois recruit Cal Hejza and cleanup hitter Darren Mancke, was limited to six hits.
But the summer gave Giarrante a chance to develop his team's depth.
"Missing guys, it gives other guys opportunities," Giarrante said. "The biggest thing I took out of this summer is we have depth. These guys are all fundamentally sound players. I can pick and choose guys and know they're going to execute."