Andrew Deardurff welcomed a change in scenery.
And a bigger challenge.
Nearly two years ago, after playing baseball and golf at private-based Northridge Prep in Niles for his freshman and sophomore season, Deardurff transferred to York in the summer before his junior season.
It’s been a positive transition.
The senior outfielder has hit two home runs and been a key reason in the Dukes winning 18 of their first 23 games.
Deardurff said he wasn’t afraid of leaving a small school in favor of playing in Class 4A baseball. He was excited about the challenge, embraced the shorter commute and looked forward to playing and hanging out with his long-time friends. Deardurff joked the only negative was getting lost a few times and arriving late to classes last season.
“Baseball was a harder transition in the transfer because I’ve been hanging out and playing sports with my buddies all my life,” he said. “I went into York with a good crew of guys, knew a bunch of people there. The coach and the team also welcomed me. The number one reason I transferred was a better and more competitive sports program and also being local. I fit in much better at York. It was a good move. I have no regrets doing it.”
Deardurff said he credited his fast adjustment to playing well in the summer prior to his junior season that “helped catch the coaches’ eyes.” He hit .318 with 26 RBIs and scored 29 runs for the 23-11 Dukes last season.
This season, Deardurff was moved from centerfield to rightfield, a spot he didn’t expect to play in during his final season, especially following his commitment to Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Deardurff said it took some adjustment to play in rightfield after playing in centerfield since eighth grade.
“I’ve been hitting much better this year,” Deardurff said. “I’ve been hitting with much more power, think I developed more muscle from last year. Fielding-wise, I played centerfield all last year, so I’m missing a lot of action in the field. I think I was moved to rightfield because that’s where I’ll play mostly in college. I just want to help out the team. It’s different, though. It’s a different angle the ball coming at you.”
Based on their strong start, the Dukes (19-9, 9-7 in West Suburban Silver) earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional. They play the winner between Elk Grove and Streamwood on May 23 at 4:30 p.m. Led by a strong group of pitchers, including John Milling, the Dukes are aiming to end a 22-year regional title drought that dates back to the 1996 season. Deardurff is one of 15 returnees from last season and among 12 seniors on the team aiming to set a new standard by advancing to the sectionals.
The Dukes have relied on a deep pitching staff and numerous players at the plate to be a force this season.
Milling, a three-sport athlete, has pitched in 13 games, tossing 18 2/3 innings with 14 strikeouts and six walks. As a team, the Dukes are hitting .305 with a .432 on-base percentage. Ryan Ross is hitting .433 with a .566 on-base percentage and 21 RBIs while Mike Pastuovic is batting .312 with 24 RBIs.
"John has been pitching good and been solid out of the bullpen for us and works fast on the mound," York coach David Kalal said. "Our staff, top to bottom, has been pretty good. Charlie Pakenas also had some big wins this year. We have five or six solid arms this year. That's important for guys to get appearances, especially the juniors. Offensively, we have been pretty consistent this year. We're trying to find the hot hand.
"We're looking forward to breaking that 22-year drought not winning a regional. We're anxious to get past the first round and see what will happen after that."
Jimmy Allen and Thomas Becvar both hit inside-the-park home runs in the fourth inning and combined for five RBIs, leading the Trojans (14-13) past Northridge Prep 15-6 in a Class 2A IC Catholic Prep Regional semifinal on May 16.
The Trojans will advance to face Westmont, a 9-3 winner over ICCP, in the regional final May 19.