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Family, teammates help Downers Grove South's Zach Burdi reach new heights

Iowa-bound standout praises teammates, family before taking mound in playoff opener

Bill Ackerman –
Downers Grove South's Zach Burdi works on his pickoff move with other pitchers Monday during practice.
Bill Ackerman – Downers Grove South's Zach Burdi works on his pickoff move with other pitchers Monday during practice.

DOWNERS GROVE – There’s no denying Zach Burdi’s baseball talents.

The Downers Grove South senior, who excels at the plate as well as on the mound, will play at the University of Iowa after he finishes his high school career.

Burdi has the kind of talent that makes coaches drool, but he knows that the Mustangs’ success, as well as his personal success, this season is far from a one-man show, even if that one man has the kind of numbers Burdi does.

“Early in the year my plan was to get on base any way possible and then as the year went on and my swing got better to keep it going,” Burdi said during practice Monday, two days before starting his final playoff run for the Mustangs. “With this group of guys around you it’s pretty easy to get pitches to hit.”

Burdi will pitch in the Mustangs’ playoff opener against Plainfield East at 4 p.m. today in a Hinsdale Central regional semifinal, and he’ll do so with one major goal in mind.

“All of us on this team have been playing together for eight or nine years,” Burdi said,“And one of the things we’ve always talked about is winning a state championship.”

Burdi grew up in a baseball family and a family of athletes. Oldest brother Drew Burdi played quarterback for the Mustangs and continued his career at Western Michigan University. Older brother Nick Burdi is currently anchoring the bullpen at the University of Louisville. Competing with and against Nick helped Zach become the player he is today.

“Nick, he is probably the most hard-working kid you’re ever going to be around,” Burdi said. “Working with him, I got a taste of the college work ethic.”

One aspect of baseball that Burdi really developed this season was his leadership role, and it helped Downers Grove South coach Darren Orel lay to rest one of his biggest concerns coming into the season.

“This year he’s really taken that on compared to last year,” Orel said. “That was one of the things coming into the year I really didn’t know about was who was going to be a leader for us, but he’s definitely stepped up. He’s very positive and he knows how to challenge guys. If it always comes from the coach it’s not as effective, but he knows how to talk to guys and motivate them.”

In addition to being a team leader in the morale department, Burdi is a team leader in the stats department. Currently carrying one of the highest batting averages in the area, he hits for power and average. On the mound, which is where he will play when he arrives at Iowa, he has a live arm and one of the highest strikeout totals around.

“He’s been a little up and down on the mound, but with the bat he’s been pretty consistent all year,” Orel said. “That said, his last four or five starts he’s really been on. He’s 2-1 in the month of May. He’s a guy, because of his nasty, dominant stuff, you don’t see a whole lot of teams hit him hard.”

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