2021 WCIA 3 Baseball Player of the Year: Crayton Burnett


St. Joseph-Ogden grad and Illinois signee posted a dominant senior year

ST. JOSEPH (WCIA) — Most pitchers would have been satisfied with a dominant sophomore season and 0.4 ERA, but not St. Joseph-Ogden pitcher Crayton Burnett. The six-foot right hander has been working and getting better at Perform Every Day in Champaign under former college pitcher Joe Yager. There he’s gotten to work alongside current professionals like Champaign’s Joe Aeilts, Alec Barger, Tanner Gordon, and more.

“I have been working hard and I’ll continue to train,” says Burnett. “Baseball’s a huge mental game. He hit hard on the mental side and that helped a lot. It’s more about executing the pitch and every pitch that you can.”

“One of the things we always talked with him mentally is always moving on to the next pitch,” says Yager. “What can I do, how can I turn what was my mistake into my next success.”

Burnett turned what he learned there into one of best seasons on the mound SJO has ever seen. This year, the right-hander posted the third best strikeout total in school history with 133 K’s, only allowing four walks all season, tying the school record for shutouts with 6.

“In the last ten years, we’ve had a number of arms that went through here,” says SJO head coach Josh Haley. “We’ve had multiple division one arms, he’s been right there with the best of them.”

And he helped lead the Spartans to their first sectional title since 2017.

“The team we had this year was really special,” says Burnett. “We’ve played with each other our whole lives and we were all grateful to have one more chance to play with each other.”

Burnett garnered a lot of interest from teams at the next level, but once he had an offer from Illinois, there was no choice to make.

“That was always my dream school,” says Burnett. “When I had the opportunity to go there, it was a pretty easy decision for me.”

Burnett says Illinois’s plan is for him to start as a reliver before possibly being stretched into a starter later in his career. No matter what the next level has to throw at him, Burnett is committed to keep getting better.

“I think I just love the competition part of it,” says Burnett. “You’re in every pitch, there’s no better feeling than being on the mound and competing.”

“He just is always looking for adversity, because he is now relishing it to the point of ‘When I have adversity, it sharpens me, it exposes me, and allows me to go out and create solutions,'” says Yager.

Crayton reports to Champaign to join the Illini in August.


2019: Zack Lee, Effingham

2018: Dalton Hoel, Tuscola

2017: Lane Belleville, Teutopolis

2016: Dalton Parker, St. Joseph-Ogden

2015: Joe Aeilts, Central

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