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Willowbrook leadoff hitter Zunkel sparks Warriors’ early success

ADDISON – Tyler Zunkel was late in getting to Willowbrook this year, but the senior second baseman is the first one to start things off for the Warriors.

Zunkel came to Willowbrook as a transfer from York. His family moved from Elmhurst to Villa Park in early September this year. He had already played a year of varsity baseball and started his senior year of school at York, but transferred to Willowbrook right away.

Now he is the Warriors’ leadoff hitter and is sparking the team’s strong start. In Willowbrook’s first 10 games Zunkel was hitting .417 (15-for-36) with 10 RBIs, 13 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.

“I keep up with all the York guys,” Zunkel said. “I still miss them, but I’m with a new family.”

Zunkel admitted the transfer was a bit of a pain, but on the baseball side the transition was eased by the fact that he played with Willowbrook seniors T.J. Case and Mike Rothmund on a summer team.

“He does everything 100 miles an hour,” Willowbrook coach Vic Wisner said. “He’s so old school you wouldn’t know if he was 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. That’s just how he bounces around and does everything. He is our heartbeat. Just an outstanding kid, too.”

A big part of Zunkel’s game is his speed. He is a constant threat to steal a base and entered Thursday’s game at Oak Park-River Forest 11-for-12 in stole base attempts.

“I love being leadoff hitter,” Zunkel said. “As soon as I get on base they have to make a perfect catch at catcher, they have to make a perfect throw to get me. I’m just trying to challenge the catcher every time I get on.”

Zunkel has been leading off for a Willowbrook team that improved to 6-0 in the West Suburban Gold after sweeping Addison Trail. The Warriors won the two games in Villa Park 6-1 and 12-3 and won the series finale 10-5 on Wednesday in Addison.

Willowbrook scored in double digits in six of its first 10 games. The latest game was an 8-5 win against Oak Park River Forest on Thursday.

“We swing good bats,” Wisner said. “The thing for me is just to find spots to get guys in to swing.”

Willowbrook vs. Addison Trail

Game 1: Warriors won 6-1
• T.J. Case: 7 IP, 10 K, 2 BB, 5 H
• Tyler Vavrek: 2-for-2, RBI, R, BB, 4 SB

Game 2: Warriors won 12-3
• Mike Rothmund: 3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, R
• Jake Cady: 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 6 H

Game 3: Warriors won 10-5
• Jeremy Knable: 5 IP, 3 K, 4 H
• Tyler Zunkel: 2-for-5, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB

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