Home News West Aurora’s Carson Bantz gets back on mound

West Aurora’s Carson Bantz gets back on mound

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Leading up to his junior season last spring, West Aurora’s Carson Bantz was feeling pretty good.

He was hitting the low 90s on the radar gun, ready to become an ace for the Blackhawks.

That was derailed, however, when he had a fracture in his growth plate.

“Not being able to pitch last year was bad,” Bantz said, looking back. “I just took it day by day. I just stayed away from comparing myself to others and tried to work hard.”

Bantz, who was still able to contribute at second base in 2023, is the Blackhawks’ top returnee.

After gaining 40 pounds in the offseason and filling out his imposing frame, though, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound is ready to unleash the entire arsenal this spring as a senior.

“This year, I’m able to do everything, so I just want to do it to the best of my ability,” Bantz said. “I’m just trying to reach my ceiling. I’m just trying to work hard.”

Brady Smith, one of his catchers, is one of Bantz’s close friends.

He has been there as Bantz struggled with his health since his sophomore season. But once tryouts began, Smith saw a different side of him.

West Aurora's Carson Bantz during Tuesday's practice at the school, March 26, 2024. (Brian O'Mahoney/ for the The Beacon-News)
West Aurora’s Carson Bantz throws the ball during practice in Aurora on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney / The Beacon-News)

“It hurt him real bad to not pitch since sophomore year,” Smith said. “The whole time, he’s been trying to work through his injury and get back to full strength.

“I’m really proud of how far he’s come. He was sitting low 90s sophomore year, and coming back now, he’s back around 90. I’m excited for him to get out there and pitch again.”

One thing that didn’t suffer through that injury was his bat.

Bantz hit .310 with three homers last season while playing second base. Now, with the increased muscle mass, he’s slated to handle third base and bat cleanup for the Blackhawks.

Last week, he hit a homer against East Aurora that has coach John Reeves excited for what’s to come on that side of the ball.

West Aurora's Carson Bantz during Tuesday's practice at the school, March 26, 2024. (Brian O'Mahoney/ for the The Beacon-News)
West Aurora’s Carson Bantz reacts during practice in Aurora on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney / The Beacon-News)

“He crushed it,” Reeves said. “It was a ball up in the zone, and he did what we wanted him to do with it — not miss. He put in a ton of work in the offseason getting stronger.

“He matured, kind of grew and filled out and transformed over the past year.”

The speed bump of the pitching injury also affected Bantz’s college recruiting. Losing a critical season of experience on the mound put him into the mode of making a sales pitch.

Knowing he wanted to play at the next level, Bantz was proactive. He contacted DuPage with his limited pitching film and offensive highlights and found a match.

“I’m just trying to go there and develop even more,” Bantz said. “I reached out to them because I was trying to go the junior college route and I know they have a really good program.

“They have really nice facilities and I’ve heard really good things.”

West Aurora's Carson Bantz during Tuesday's practice at the school, March 26, 2024. (Brian O'Mahoney/ for the The Beacon-News)
West Aurora’s Carson Bantz catches the ball during practice in Aurora on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney / The Beacon-News)

While he’s glad that he found the right fit, Bantz realizes missing out on a critical junior year of pitching development didn’t make the process any easier.

“That was difficult for sure,” Bantz said. “Early last year I had a bullpen and topped out at 88, so I was looked at by a few colleges then, so I had some clips. Also, I was in the lineup hitting last year, so I was able to have those clips as well.”

Back to full strength as a senior, Bantz is ready for a breakout season.

“I just tried to focus on myself and doing what I can,” Bantz said. “I think everyone is focused on (playing NCAA) Division I and playing at the highest level, but I think for me it was just getting healthy.

“Now that I’m healthy, I’m excited to see what I can do.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.



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