CRYSTAL LAKE — Glen Pecoraro admits he almost cut Kyle Buresch.
This was, of course, before the season. Buresch had not played baseball since his freshman season, so he faced tough odds to make it off Pecoraro’s initial cut list and crack the roster entering tryouts.
“Kyle Buresch was an afterthought to me,” the Wolves coach said before a practice on Tuesday afternoon.
By now, Buresch is no longer an afterthought. The senior left fielder leads the team this season in hitting with a .296 batting average and has keyed Prairie Ridge to just its second Class 4A state tournament berth in school history. The Wolves (24-16) face Providence (26-14) in the semifinals at 3 p.m. on Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Buresch has belted 32 hits and 27 RBIs, but has never played at the varsity level prior to the season, primarily concentrating on hockey as the captain and top-line center for Prairie Ridge’s club team.
Next season, he’ll lace up his skates for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a Division III program in the southwest part of the state. Oddly enough, it’s his time on the ice, he says, that’s prepped him for his string of success on the diamond this spring.
“I think it gives me more of a competitive edge, from going to something so fast to something as slow as baseball,” Buresch said. “But it’s a good change of speed. It just gets me motivated to play.”
In the 9-6 victory over Mundelein in the supersectional on Monday night, Buresch, who hits fifth in the lineup, went 2-for-3 at the plate with 2 RBIs.
“He’s a competitor,” Pecoraro said. “He’s a gamer. Kyle just rises to the occasion when something needs to be done. He was like that in hockey all these years — and even in baseball. When we needed a hit, when we needed somebody to come through, Kyle Buresch was always the guy to come through.”
It’s his ability to hit that won over Pecoraro. In winter tryouts, Buresch was the best hitter that week, according to Pecoraro, and especially so during a simulation pitchers-hitters game.
“He was a no-brainer to keep,” Pecoraro said, “because of how good he was that week.”
The plan was to stash him out in left, a way to minimize fielding responsibilities and let him focus on his hitting. And that has paid off thus far.
Facing the Wolves’ stout pitching rotation headlined by aces Austin Covers and Ben Cilano throughout the year has helped him catch up to speed.
“Just seeing pitches in batting practice helped me,” he said. “Everything just came naturally, like fielding. But hitting was the hardest part.”
And he’s been hitting, despite a sort of unorthodox approach.
“A lot of the things you wouldn’t necessarily teach a young hitter to do, he has a tendency to do,” Pecoraro said. “He’ll swing and miss, you’ll go, ‘that’s ugly.’ But then, next pitch, he’ll make an adjustment, and bam, he’ll put a barrel on it. We call it getting ugly. You’ll look ugly on one pitch, and then next pitch, square it up.”
Added Buresch, grinning: “Everyone says it’s ugly. But I just try to hit the ball. See ball, hit ball.”
He’s done that plenty this year.