Heritage Christian Academy sophomore Jonny Flynn took nearly two years off from baseball, focusing instead on family. Living with his grandma since he was two years old, Flynn hasn’t had the same support system many high schoolers around him have.
“They are basically strangers to me,” Flynn said of his parents who are unable to care for him, adding that the brotherhood he’s found on the baseball team has helped him find his path. “I’m so fortunate to have my grandma and the older guys to mentor me.”
Flynn, the Eagles' starting shortstop and second pitcher, compliments Missouri commit Seth Halvorsen, a senior who threw 12 strikeouts en route to a 4-1 win over Providence Academy (10-4, 9-1) Friday night at Arnold Klaers Baseball Field in Loretto, 10 miles west of Plymouth.
Batting ninth in the lineup, Flynn helps Heritage Christian (13-2, 8-1) turn its lineup over and give the top of the batting order, including Halvorsen who follows him, opportunities on base, Eagles coach Jon Ledeboer said.
Against Providence Academy, Flynn sparked the Eagles with a leadoff single in the top of the third inning with the game still scoreless. Halvorsen got on base after an error where Lions pitcher Zachary Fritz overthrew the second baseman, sending Flynn to third.
Flynn scorched down the third-base line on a sacrifice fly by freshman Steph Sawtelle and slid to home plate, beating the throw from strong-armed Lions centerfielder Tommy Wehmann. Halvorsen scored off a RBI single from Taylor Brodersen as the duo recorded the game’s opening runs.
As two of Heritage Christian’s best athletes, Flynn and Halvorsen interchange at shortstop when the other is pitching. Ledeboer said that both have innate athleticism that allows them to excel. Making the Class 1A state tournament as members of the basketball team that made the program’s first-ever state tourney appearance last winter is added evidence of their abilities.
In the bottom of the third, Halvorsen was humming on the mound, striking out the first two batters he faced and catching a popup to retire the side. He is the state’s leading strikeout artist with 66 on the season. His arm, which fires fastballs over 90 miles per hour, garnered the attention of a Chicago Cubs scout among an audience of roughly 300 at the field Friday night.
“Sometimes there’s games where there’s not a lot of balls that come to you, but it’s fun to watch him play — he’s outstanding,” Flynn said.
Halvorsen struggled to retire batters an inning later as the first two batsmen he faced forced full counts, but his infield made the plays needed to bail him out. Flynn made a diving save and rifled the ball to first baseman Sam Frederickson for one of the inning’s outs.
“He’s been huge leading our team in innings (played),” Ledeboer said. “He’s an athlete and it’s easy to coach athletes when they have those gifts. That was just an athlete play and nothing that’s coachable.”
Halvorsen, who has always had the arm to intimidate opposing batters, learned to fine-tune his pitching skills and add pitches to his repertoire later in his high school career. His ascendance as a potential Major League Baseball draft pick in June is evidence of his hard work, which he hopes to instill in teammates, including Flynn.
“He came from a struggling home, so it’s been great to lead him in sports especially, and at school and everyday life,” Halvorsen said of Flynn. “It’s been great to become a man in his life a little bit and it’s had a big impact on me as well.”
Winning 13 of its past 14 games, Heritage Christian, a school of 150, will be vying for the Minnesota Christian Atheltic Association title next week. Many Eagles players have made several deep trips with the program that's tasted the sting of five straight losses in the section championship.
Halvorsen and Flynn look to change that and help the program break through to its first state tournament.
“(Halvorsen’s) helped me out with a lot of different things and — for me being a sophomore — it’s a good year for him to show what this team can do and also what I can in the next two years,” Flynn said.
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