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Owen Roberts of Waubonsie Valley is an eye-opener

Waubonsie Valley’s Owen Roberts is starting to reconsider his future.

A starting safety on the football team, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Roberts is making a name for himself in baseball.

“I’m definitely very excited,” he said. “This year has gone very well. I’m growing more and more as a player. For me the sky is the limit. Before this season, I didn’t think I would be interested in college baseball. But having my junior season go so well has really opened my eyes and maybe a window to Division I.”

Roberts, one of the main reasons the Warriors (18-9, 10-4) are in first place in the DuPage Valley Conference and on pace to win 20 games for the first time since 2016, has been particularly important as a pitcher. He is 5-0 with two saves and a 1.49 ERA in 10 appearances, and he has struck out 42 and walked just five in 33 innings.

“I didn’t pitch (last year), but I finally got a chance to show the coaches what I can do,” he said. “I understood my role last year and was waiting for my opportunity to come this year. I’m happy that all my work has paid off. I believed in myself and what I could do as a pitcher.”

Roberts came out of the bullpen at the start of the season, but Waubonsie Valley coach Bryan Acevedo said the staff ultimately decided to insert the right-hander into the rotation.

“We were hoping he would close two games a week,” Acevedo said. “But we realized that if we don’t have the lead, we’re sitting on this arm that we think is really special and he’s not throwing.”

Roberts combines his 80 mph fastball with a change-up and a curveball.

“I’m just trying to run offense, pitch to make contact and trust my defense, and good things will happen,” he said. “My speed allows me to screw up with hitters. I also throw a lot of strikes, which helps me a lot. I get ahead by using my off-speed.”

Waubonsie Valley's Owen Roberts sprints to first place during the boys baseball game against Glenbard East on Saturday, May 4, 2024 in Aurora.  (James C. Svehla/For the Naperville Sun)
Waubonsie Valley’s Owen Roberts runs to first base during a game against Glenbard East in Aurora on Saturday, May 4, 2024. (James C. Svehla / Naperville Sun)

Roberts contributes in almost every phase of the game. He plays shortstop when he’s not pitching and is hitting .451 with seven doubles, two triples, three home runs, 23 RBIs and 22 runs scored. He homered twice and drove in seven runs during Waubonsie Valley’s win against Plainfield East on April 27.

“Owen is playing really good baseball,” Acevedo said. “Last year we knew he was going to be special. He struggled defensively at times, but he showed promise offensively. This year he will be used on both sides of the ball.

“He provides some pop for us at the plate. He finds a way to get on base, gets a little walk and can hit home runs.”

Roberts, who had 58 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups during the football season, made his first varsity start on the mound against Metea Valley on April 18. He threw a two-hitter without a walk in the Warriors’ 3-2 victory. , completing a three-game DVC sweep of the Mustangs. Since then he has been a regular in the starting rotation.

“He competes,” Acevedo said. “He doesn’t like losing. That’s what makes him so good on the mound. … He can concentrate in short bursts. He excels in that. I am excited about his success and what he can bring to the program.”

Waubonsie Valley freshman catcher Shane Torres said he had never worked with Roberts until this season and is impressed.

“Owen is such a tough pitcher because he not only throws hard, but he has great control and great secondary pitches,” Torres said. “He never lets anything get to his head on the mound. He is someone you can always count on to get the job done on the mound.”

Roberts said he gained more than 15 pounds in the offseason and added a few miles per hour to his fastball.

“I didn’t take my pitching seriously, but this year I’m finally taking it to the next level,” he said. “I never thought it would be this good. I knew I was a good pitcher, but I wasn’t sure if I would have an ERA of 1.49.”

Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter.