Red-hot Mt. Zion motivated to make deep playoff run

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Mt. Zion senior Dawson "DJ" Johns will attend Danville Area Community College this fall. He's hitting .323 with just 12 strikeouts all season. Mt. Zion senior Dawson "DJ" Johns will attend Danville Area Community College this fall. He's hitting .323 with just 12 strikeouts all season.

MT. ZION -- Head coach Matt Smith's Braves are 21-3 on the season and primed for a playoff run to remember. Things are looking up for the veteran-laden squad, which features a handful of college-bound prospects on the mound and in the field.

But the ending of last year's season is still fresh in the team's mind, despite the fact that it's a much different group from 2017. That team relied more heavily on the power in the middle of the lineup, whereas this year's team is more about cohesiveness, situational hitting and a lights-out pitching staff. It's a group that remembers last season's ending well -- a narrow 3-2 loss to Champaign Central in the regional final. (The Maroons would go on to reach the Class 3A state tournament.)

This year's Braves bunch includes Quincy-bound Jonah Smith (1.62 ERA, 55 K:18 BB), Millikin-bound Trevor Durand (2.12 ERA, 39 K: 11 BB) and junior Zach Pounders (0.00 ERA, 21 K in 24.2 IP) on the mound. Breakout senior Bradley Reynolds leads the team with a .439 average to go with 18 RBIs and a team-high 14 steals. Junior Daniel Chausse is hitting .345, Durand is hitting .329, Danville Area CC-bound senior DJ Johns is hitting .323, Braden Highley is hitting .318, Mason Lutz is hitting .288 with a team-high 3 HRs and 23 RBIs, and Smith is hitting .274 with a .536 OBP.

The Braves wrap up the regular season with games against Pontiac and 4A powerhouse New Trier.

In this WAND interview, Smith, Reynolds and Durand share the secret to this season's success.

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