Connor Kopach excelling in new lead-off role for Downers North baseball

It hasn't always come easy, but Kopach is setting the table for the Trojans' early success.

DOWNERS GROVE — The No. 1 hitter in a baseball lineup has a defined role — see a lot of pitches, work the count and get on base any way possible.

That’s exactly what Downers Grove North’s Connor Kopach has done this season, even though it hasn’t always come easy after he batted in the No. 2 spot last year.

“It’s definitely a big adjustment since I don’t like to see a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Kopach said. “That’s what you get as the leadoff hitter, but you just have to get through it and get the job done.”

The No. 1 and No. 2 hitters have defined and different roles, especially the first time through the order. The No. 1 hitter is tasked with getting on base while the No. 2 hitter is charged with advancing that runner. It’s a big switch going from No. 2 to No. 1, and as this season goes on Kopach is improving as a leadoff hitter.

“I’ve been able to see pitches better,” he said. “I’m seeing the off-speed pitches really well.”

The bottom third of the lineup has been able to produce and keep the line moving to the top of the order where Kopach and No. 2 hitter Ray Greco have excelled in their roles.

“Connor has had good at-bats, putting the ball in play and he runs the bases well. He’s been a good guy at the top of the lineup,” coach Chad Isaacson said. “He’s taken to it. It’s one of those things coach (Andrew Heinz) and I talked about. I was like, ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ We’ve put Ray (Greco) in the two spot and it’s been a nice combination with Connor and Ray 1-2. They’ve done a nice job.”

With Kopach setting the table, the Trojans have jumped out to a 5-1 start in West Suburban Silver play heading into Saturday’s conference doubleheader at Proviso West. North swept York to start conference then took two of three from perennial contender Lyons Township to stay near the top of the standings.

The Trojans have gotten it done by living up to Isaacson’s expectations.

“The biggest thing is we continue to compete and give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Isaacson said. “We’ve continued to fight. We’ve been down in games and we’ve continued to come back — swinging the bats, putting the ball down, getting guys in, two-out RBIs, things of that nature.”

The Trojans still have WSS series with Glenbard West (April 27-29), Oak Park-River Forest (May 4-6) and Hinsdale Central (May 11-13) after the Proviso West series, but winning the first two series in conference is a good way to start.

“LT is always tough and we battled and got through it, and York has a great team,” Kopach said. “Our hitters have been really good, basically getting clutch hits all year, and our pitchers are hitting their spots and keeping us in games.”

North took both ends of Saturday’s West Suburban Conference crossover with Proviso East, winning 25-0 and 13-0, both in five innings to improve to 8-2 overall. Troy Southard earned the win in Game 1 and Mike O'Malley won in Game 2. The Trojans pounded out 24 hits in the two games, including six doubles, and Matt Zabloudil’s triple in Game 2.