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Baseball: Jason Crafton, Oswego hang in there after rough inning drop regional semifinal

Panthers and senior right-hander have plenty of positives to build on from summer

Oswego's Jason Crafton (33) delivers a pitch against Oswego East in Oswego June 27
Oswego's Jason Crafton (33) delivers a pitch against Oswego East in Oswego June 27

ST. CHARLES – Jason Crafton couldn't be blamed for cashing in his chips Wednesday.

But he didn't.

Crafton, an Oswego senior pitcher, was the victim of a Murphy's law mix of misfortune during the second inning in St. Charles.

The Panthers committed five errors, two on errant pickoffs, had a run score on a passed ball and two more on steals of home. Crystal Lake South scored four runs total in the inning, without benefit of a hit.

"I made errors, so did the defense too," Crafton said. "I just have to trust in the next play."

Crafton indeed shrugged off the bad luck. Oswego, despite being down five regulars, plugged away to the end before dropping the St. Charles East Regional semifinal of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic 5-2.

Crafton pitched into the sixth, and allowed just two hits and four walks. He had confidence his team could rally, with reason. Oswego (9-5) won its first two regional games in comeback fashion, in its last at-bat.

"We get down four runs, our team has proven that we have been able to come back," Crafton said. "I had trust in the whole game that we would get the hits going."

Crafton's biggest challenge can be controlling his emotions, but Oswego coach Joe Giarrante knows his big right-hander will battle.

He sure didn't let one poor inning derail his day Wednesday.

"He's always a gamer," Giarrante said. "Like a lot of kids, if he puts in the time he'll get better. Sometimes he gets frustrated, I try to go out there and calm him down, but he has good stuff. They weren't squaring too many balls on him."

Oswego was missing big hitters like JD Miller, Garry Maynard and Luke Menard Wednesday. It didn't prevent the Panthers from scratching out 10 hits.

Aidan Griffin doubled and scored on Cal Hejza's line-drive single in the fourth. In the sixth, Crafton hit a booming leadoff single. Brady Peterlin, one of four sophomores to play Wednesday, singled in a run to make it 4-2.

Crafton kept an aggressive approach, and it paid off.

"I go up, same approach every at-bat, first pitch I'm hacking as hard as I can," Crafton said. "If it's not a strike, second pitch I'm hacking as hard as I can."

Giarrante appreciated how his team didn't go south after its unfortunate second inning.

"I don't think I've ever seen an inning like that before in my 30 years of experience," Giarrante said. "I'm very proud of the way they fought. We put up 10 hits, can't gripe about that. We came out and we battled and we fought."

It's good momentum going into the spring.

The summer also gave the Panthers an idea of what kinks they need to iron out, specifically their defense.

"This summer is all about us learning and giving us an idea of what we need to focus on, and it's the defense we need to focus on. We have the pieces," Giarrante said. "We'll make the spectacular play, it's just sometimes we lose focus. We have a bright future, just have to stick with it. I like what I see moving forward."

Crafton is a big piece of that future. He isn't yet certain what his role will be in next season's pitching staff. If he battles like he did Wednesday, he'll be a prominent part of it.

"I really don't know," Crafton said, "but I definitely believe I'll get a lot of innings in."

"Jason will definitely be in the mix," Giarrante said. "He's got the stuff, we just need to fix it a little bit on his overall demeanor, but a lot of positives."

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