El Modena's Conine shuts out Villa Park


ORANGE – A year ago, El Modena pitcher Brett Conine was in the midst of a lost season. A bout with mononucleosis sapped his strength, and he was never able to pitch to his full potential.

His senior year has been a different story.

Now fully healthy, Conine has dominated opposing hitters, and he continued his spectacular season Friday with a shutout against rival Villa Park, 1-0, in a nonleague game at El Modena High.

“This is the culmination of a bunch of years of hard work coming to fruition for him,” El Modena coach Josh Kliner said. “He’s just an absolute competitor and it’s fun to watch him out there.”

Conine (5-1) struck out 10 and gave up three hits with no walks. He faced 23 batters and needed only 71 pitches (55 of them strikes) to get through the full seven innings.

“It’s good to see him at full strength and able to show everybody what he can do,” Kliner said. “On the mound, at third base and at the plate, he’s been an absolute beast for us, and we’re just kind of riding his coattails.”

Villa Park starting pitcher Anthony Navarro was on the wrong end of the pitchers’ duel. He threw six innings and allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts.

Conine was in control for nearly the entire game. The only scoring chance for the Spartans (15-6) came in the fifth inning when Brady Howell hit a two-out triple to left field. Conine struck out the next batter on three pitches to end the threat.

The lone run of the game came in the first inning. A.J. Esperanza hit a single to lead off the game, then advanced to third on a single by Dominic Campeau. Esperanza scored on a sacrifice fly by Conine.

Kliner moved Esperanza, a freshman, to the leadoff spot a couple weeks ago, and the results have been positive. The Vanguards (15-6) have won eight of their last nine games, and Esperanza has found his stride at the plate.

“You take a young kid like that and throw him in there like that into an important spot in your order, and you’re kind of hesitant to do that,” Kliner said. “But nothing really phases the kid. He’s just a baseball player through and through.

“It doesn’t matter where you put him in the lineup – he’s going to deliver. Every kid on this team has all the faith in the world in him.”

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