NORMAL — Illinois State baseball coach Bo Durkac received a closeup look at Heartland College pitcher Jackson Bronke in a scrimmage game earlier this fall.
“He struck out a really talented hitter in (Redbird shortstop) Owen Miller with a slider,” Durkac said.
Bronke, a Normal Community High School graduate, will be striking out hitters for the Redbirds in 2019 after signing a national letter of intent with ISU on Wednesday.
“We continue to stockpile our farm system, as we call it,” said Durkac. “We have a constant influx of incoming freshmen combined with a good transfer.”
The right-handed Bronke was 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA as a freshman at Heartland with 39 strikeouts in 29 innings. He will pitch for the Hawks in the coming spring before joining the Redbirds.
“Jackson is a guy who in theory has back end of the bullpen stuff,” Durkac said. “He’s going to get strikeouts with the game on the line, and we all know how valuable that is. If he shows well this spring for Heartland, all bets are off. We’ll figure out if he’s worthy of a starting role.”
ISU also signed nine high school seniors: four pitchers, two outfielders, two infielders and a catcher.
Outfielder Gunner Peterson of Salem, Wis., is the No. 8-ranked player in the state and comes from the same travel program as Miller.
“He is a really talented left-handed hitter. We expect big things out of Gunner,” said Durkac. “You don’t project too many freshmen to come in and start, but Gunner might be that guy."
The ISU coach said outfielder Nick Herbst of McFarland, Wis., “gets great jumps in the outfield and swings it well from the left side. He has a great feel for the (bat) barrel.”
The Redbirds landed Missouri’s No. 12 overall player and No. 3 shortstop in Alex Adams of Wildwood, Mo., and Lafayette High School.
“He has a really bright future here with a ton of athleticism for us to develop,” Durkac said. “He can play shortstop or third base. He moves around really well."
Clint Wells, a 6-foot-2 catcher from Canton, also is ISU bound.
“He’s a big, physical athletic catcher who was the quarterback on the football team,” said Durkac. “He’s got the strength you look for and has a world of upside.”
Pitchers in the recruiting class are Geneva lefty Sean Sinisko and right-handers Derek Salata of Nazareth Academy, Bryce Konitzer of Mukwonago, Wis., and Cedric Girard of Oregon, Wis.
“Salata has a classic big league delivery. He has the size (6-3, 205) and strength we’re looking for to walk in the door and compete for innings,” Durkac said. “Konitzer really commands the fastball well, pitches to both sides of the plate and already has a pretty good changeup.”
Durkac said Girard “has the most potential of the all the guys we brought in to throw really hard one day” and Sinisko “is a big (6-4, 210), physical left-hander who knows where it’s going.”