By the time this season is over, Richmond-Burton graduate Brandon Bannon will have more than 100 starts under his belt for the University of Illinois Springfield, one the nation’s top NCAA Division II baseball programs.
His versatility as a catcher and second basemen makes Bannon a key member of the Prairie Stars, who are ranked No. 6 nationally this week thanks to a 28-4 record.
But when he is under his own roof, Bannon’s younger sister Peyton – a freshman softball player at Wisconsin – often gets the most attention for her athletic skills.
“Everyone tells me that she’s the athlete of the family,” Brandon Bannon said. “They think it’s an insult to me, but in reality it’s one of the biggest compliments that I can get.”
This spring, the siblings are enjoying impactful season for their respective teams.
While batting .306 for the Badgers, Peyton Bannon is leading the team in five offensive categories as its leadoff hitter, including doubles (10), triples (three) and slugging percentage (.576). She’s had at least one hit in eight of the past 10 games for the Badgers.
“(Leadoff) has been a good spot for me,” she said. “It’s been working pretty well. In most of my at-bats, I’m seeing a lot of pitches. Once one of us starts hitting, it’s like a chain reaction.”
Playing left field, shortstop and second base this season, Peyton Bannon said she has benefited from her travel ball experience with the Illinois Chill.
“I’ve always played a super competitive schedule all summer,” she said. “That’s really prepared me for college.”
After a slow start, the Badgers (15-17) – which feature 12 players who are freshmen or sophomores – have won 10 of the last 12 games.
Down the road in Springfield, Brandon Bannon’s team has won every series this season while compiling a 28-4 record and focusing on making noise nationally.
“A (D-II) World Series championship is something we’re capable of,” he said. “Our offense is unbelievable. Our one through nine hitters are all guys who could probably hit at the top of the lineup at just about every Division II school in the country.”
Brandon Bannon is batting .306 with 20 RBIs this season for a UIS team that ranks second nationally in batting average (.363) and seventh in runs (335). Not to be outdone, the pitching staff is No. 9 in ERA (3.55).
“I’ve made my biggest strides in the field,” he said. “I feel like there’s not a play that I can’t make.”
When he’s not helping the Prairie Stars to national prominence, Brandon Bannon admits he’s rooting on Wisconsin.
“Whenever I’m not playing, I’m watching her play,” he said. “She’s tearing it up. She has absolutely worked her butt off to be where she is now. I’m super proud of her.”
Brandon Bannon said his father, Eric, and mother, Janice, instilled a strong work ethic in their children from an early age. That has paid off when it comes to athletics.
When they are at home, the siblings work out together at AIM Sports Performance in Schaumburg along with sessions with a hitting coach.
“It’s been fun to be together and get better,” said Peyton Bannon, who admires her brother’s drive. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever see and that rubs off on me a lot. He’s always trying to work on his game, and that motivates me to follow him.”
Ross, Loyola earn NCAA trip: Crystal Lake South grad Jenna Ross and her Loyola Chicago soccer teammates won their third consecutive Missouri Valley Conference tournament title this spring and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Loyola (8-2-1) lost for only the second time this season in the opening-round NCAA game – a 3-1 loss to Denver on Tuesday. Ross, a senior defender, had one assist this season and was part of a Ramblers defensive unit that allowed only eight goals this season. Loyola earned six shutouts during the spring campaign.
Badgers’ best at Big Ten meet: University of Wisconsin senior Mackenzie Hahn (Richmond-Burton) was the top finisher for the Badgers at last weekend’s Big Ten Conference women’s golf championships at TPC River’s Bend in Mainesville, Ohio.
Hahn led the Badgers in every round, shooting 75, 70 and 74 for a three-round total of 3-over par 219. The finish earned Hahn a tie for 18th place as an individual, which was the best finish of her career.
Seton Hall standout: Huntley grad Taylor Jakubowski was one of six players named last month to the All-Big East Conference women’s volleyball team.
The freshman setter finished fifth in the league with 7.11 assists per set, which was the highest total among Big East freshmen at the position. Jakubowski posted a career-best 44 assists to go with 10 digs Feb. 27 against Sacred Heart. She had a career-best 20 digs March 27 against Connecticut.
· Barry Bottino writes about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.
Source: The Daily Chronicle