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Colin Ryder, St. Charles North edge South Elgin

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Senior first baseman Colin Ryder was content to play the waiting game for St. Charles North.

He was looking for an opportunistic pitch, and he also had the whole field in front of him.

“All day, from the first time that I was up, I kept getting a lot of breaking balls,” Ryder said, looking back. “I was just sitting there with the later at-bats and waiting for the off-speed stuff.

“Just holding back for that moment.”

That moment arrived in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night as Ryder drilled a two-out RBI single, helping the host North Stars prevail 3-2 over South Elgin in a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal.

Ryder, who opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first inning, finished 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Senior designated hitter Ty Heimbuch added an RBI single for the North Stars (27-5-2), who play at 11 a.m. Saturday for the sectional title against third-seeded York (29-9).

Senior right-hander Josh Caccia pitched a complete game for St. Charles North, striking out 14 and allowing three hits and one walk. Junior infielder Justin Pold had RBI doubles in the fourth and sixth innings for South Elgin (15-14-1).

At 6-foot-6, Ryder is a gentle giant, quiet and inward but always ready to step up to the challenge, according to senior shortstop Jordan Spring.

St. Charles North's Jackson Spring (22) acknowledges cheers from fans and teammates after his double in the third inning during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game against South Elgin on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in St. Charles. St. Charles North won, 3-2.H. Rick Bamman / For the Beacon News
St. Charles North’s Jackson Spring (22) acknowledges cheers from fans and teammates after his double in the third inning against South Elgin during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (H. Rick Bamman / The Beacon News)

“With his size, he’s going to get a lot of junk from other pitchers, and he handles it really well,” Spring said. “He’s a grinder who goes out there and competes, and that’s what he did.

“He comes off quiet and reserved, but he really competes. He’s a good one to have on your team.”

Ryder, a three-year starter, has developed into a foundational player as the cleanup hitter for the North Stars. He’s shown the ability to blend size and power while hitting the ball to all sides.

”He’s a lot stronger now than even last year,” St. Charles coach Todd Genke said. “He’s more of a professional hitter. Colin understands situations, gets good swings on the ball.

“He understands if they pitch him a certain way, he’s going to go that way.”

Ryder has learned to utilize his size and swing radius with his long frame.

St. Charles North's Ty Heimbuch (4) reacts to being brush backed by a pitch in the fourth inning during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game against South Elgin on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in St. Charles. St. Charles North won, 3-2.H. Rick Bamman / For the Beacon News
St. Charles North’s Ty Heimbuch (4) reacts to being brushed back by a pitch in the fourth inning against South Elgin during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (H. Rick Bamman / The Beacon News)

“I feel like there’s no ball that is out of reach for me,” he said. “I am always able to reach and get those outside pitches like in my final at-bat (Wednesday).”

Growing up around athletes, Ryder said baseball was an identity and early calling.

“We were a baseball family,” he said. “I remember even as a young kid, being out with my dad in the yard with a Wiffle ball strapped to the tree when I was about 2 or 3 years old and hitting.

“My sister also ran track and she was competitive, and I was always wanted to do well.”

Most importantly, Ryder has flourished in the state playoffs, offsetting the pressure and elevating to the heightened stakes.

”In the state tournament, everything is a lot bigger,” he said. “Every pitch matters, and the moments are larger. I’ve learned how to be calm and have everything sync to my preparation.”

St. Charles North's Colin Ryder (24) waits for a pick-off attempt from pitcher Joshua Caccia (1) against South Elgin's Dominic Conidi (5) during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in St. Charles. St. Charles North won, 3-2.H. Rick Bamman / For the Beacon News
St. Charles North’s Colin Ryder (24) waits for a pick-off attempt from pitcher Josh Caccia (1) against South Elgin’s Dominic Conidi (5) during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (H. Rick Bamman / The Beacon News)

Ryder’s role as the cleanup hitter is designed to maximize his ability to drive in runners.

He has delivered, and then some.

“We have a lot of great players in our lineup all the way through, and we always have guys on base,” Ryder said. “Hitting to all fields is my biggest strength.

“I just do what I can to get guys in — just relax and go up there, one pitch at a time.”

Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.



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