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2015 Preview: Knights baseball sets its sights high in 2015

in Baseball by
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Head Coach: Brian Aversa
2014 Record: 18-16, 9-6 in
NIB-12
2014 Season recap: A 1-0 loss to Sycamore in the Sectional semifinal ended the Knights’ season in 2014. Kaneland won the Regional title for the second time in school history over top-seeded Wheaton St. Francis. En route to the Regional title game, the Knights dispatch ACC 12-0 via a combine Anthony Holubecki/ Nick Henne no-hitter. The Knights lost their final regular-season game to ACC 6-0, and lost six of their last seven games before their State series run.
Junior Will Ring gets some pitching instructions from assistant coach Jim Smedley.              Photo by Mary Paulson
Junior Will Ring gets some pitching instructions from assistant coach Jim Smedley. Photo by Mary Paulson

KANELAND—With the warmth of spring comes the promise of another baseball season. For the Kaneland varsity team, spring 2015 is no different. Big expectations have also surfaced at the plate and in the outfield, and the Knights have set their ceiling high.

“Our goals are always (to) compete for (a Northern Illinois Big XII) Conference championship, and then prepare ourselves throughout the season and make a deep run in the playoffs,” head coach Brian Aversa said. “We’re returning a lot of seniors and a lot of guys on defense, so with the experience that we have coming back, we have some pretty high expectations.”

Aversa referenced Kaneland’s “buzzsaw of a schedule.”

“With our schedule the way they have it set up, we’re going to be very prepared by the time the postseason rolls around,” he said.

There are always players to watch on every team, from first-timers to veterans. Coach Aversa was quick to point out a few of his varsity squad players to keep an eye on.

“Joe Laudont. He’s our catcher. He started as a sophomore last year for us, and he’s a junior now,” Aversa said. “He broke his thumb in the middle of the season last year. When he went down, the team went down with him. So having Joe back is big.

“We’ve got guys like (senior) Austin Wheatley (and senior Joseph) Panico. (senior) Nick Stratman is in center field for us (and) a pitcher. (Senior) Colton Fellows is another pitcher for us that we’re going to rely on heavily. Then we have some juniors that are coming up that are trying to make a name for themselves. Our pitching staff is going to have a lot of juniors on it, so we’re going to have to get a lot of good work out of those guys, too.”
Traditionally, every pitching staff has at least one ace, a closer and so on. However, Aversa noted that things work differently with his crew of mound masters.

“I’ve never had a No. 1, No. 2 (or) No. 3 (pitcher),” Aversa said. We’ve got some guys who we know can only do shorter innings. It’s up in the air right now. We’ve got some guys that play positions in the field that we don’t want to take out of those positions to come pitch. We’ve got other guys that we think can do the job, so we’re trying to work with them these next couple of weeks (and) get them ready for the season.”

Fundamentals are the backbone for every sport, and the fundamentals of baseball can be a challenge to teach, and in some cases, to learn. It is both sides of this proverbial plate that Aversa and his staff cover in abundance.

“Everything’s fundamentals,” Aversa said on his approach to teaching and coaching the game. “You can always build off it, or sometimes you have to take a step back and go back to the fundamentals. This game is an easy game if you can get the fundamentals down. What we try to do is work consistently on those things and put them (the players) in situations that they are going to see in a game: ball over the shoulder; ball that’s hooking on them. Every single situation on the infield. If we can get them in that game-type of situation, we really try to push that on them during practice.

“We try to make a competition out of it. We want our guys competing throughout the season in games. Why not make it a competition in practice, too, and get the competitive juices flowing early on?”

New players always bring heightened interest every season. Like most teams, the Knights have some new and returning players that could turn some heads (and perhaps double-plays) this year.

“(Junior) Matt O’ Sullivan is doing a real nice job on the mound for us,” Aversa said. “He’s a left-handed pitcher. He had a real nice summer, so we are excited to see what he’s going to do for us. We’re happy to have Joe (Laudont) back as a junior now. Those two guys are going to lead that young crew for us.”

In the game of baseball, there have been and always will be classic rivalries—the games that, as a coach or a player, you place a star next to on your schedule or perhaps even circle the date on your calendar. Aversa offered his parting take on this subject and how it pertains to the Knights’ 2015 season.

“We have one (heck) of a conference schedule. We have Morris, Yorkville, Sycamore and DeKalb,” he said. “There’s no off-week in there. Those teams are all very good. Anybody can win the conference any season. Our conference schedule is really, really tough.”

One conference, one big rivalry. And the varsity Knights are ready to play ball and aim high this season.

Crosby comeback

in Baseball/Kaneland/Sports by
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Casey Crosby pitches for the Toledo Mud Hens in 2013. Crosby was sidelined for much of the 2014 season before becoming a free agent and signing with the Red Sox in December 2014.  Photo courtesy of the Toledo Mud Hens
Casey Crosby pitches for the Toledo Mud Hens in 2013. Crosby was sidelined for much of the 2014 season before becoming a free agent and signing with the Red Sox in December 2014.
Photo courtesy of the Toledo Mud Hens
“There’s no substitute for a good attitude and hard work.
That’ll take you further than you think.”Casey Crosby

2007 Kaneland grad signs minor league deal with Red Sox
FORT MYERS, FLA.—The ache in his left shoulder is gone. The bone chips in his left elbow have been surgically removed. For the first time in two seasons, left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby is feeling great—and he has a new contract to play for a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate.

Crosby, who was once named the 47th-best prospect in all of baseball, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007 and earned a spot on the team’s 40-man Major League roster in 2012, but has since been repeatedly sidelined by an inflamed shoulder and rotator cuff, as well as an elbow injury that required surgery to remove loose bone chips from the joint.

He played just a handful of games for the Toledo Mud Hens, a Tigers affiliate, in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons before becoming a free agent in December.

Though a number of teams showed interest in him, most were scared off by his medical history, Crosby said. The Red Sox were willing to take a chance on the southpaw and signed him in December.

Casey Crosby was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers, after completing his senior season with the Kaneland Knights.              File Photo
Casey Crosby was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers, after completing his senior season with the Kaneland Knights. File Photo

“The Red Sox saw me throw, and though they saw my history, they think they have the ability to fix what’s been ailing me,” Crosby said.

Ben Crockett, the Red Sox’s Director of Player Development, said that the team had signed Crosby on the basis of his previous performance, which they thought showed promise.

He reported to the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 26 and has been receiving daily attention from the team’s medical staff.

“We have programs that we have all our pitchers adhere to for both elbow and shoulder maintenance, and we’ll use other measures as a particular case requires,” Crockett said. “Casey’s getting both the standard treatment and some specialized treatment.”

Those treatments have been working well so far, Crosby said, and are designed to prevent injuries rather than to simply treat them after they’ve occurred.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Crosby said. “They’re very hands-on and preventative, so they want me to come in every morning to align my joints. They align my elbow to the ideal spot so I don’t end up getting shelved for a few weeks, and they’ll do massage and deep tissue things when my joints are tight. They’re doing maintenance even when it feels fine.”

The joint troubles have been “really rough” on him, Crosby said, and he spent most of the off season working with a local chiropractor in St. Charles, Dr. Phillip Gamble of White Oak Family Wellness, to resolve the injuries that have plagued him.

Crosby pitches for the Erie Seawolves on May 28, 2011. Photo courtesy of Erie SeaWolves
Crosby pitches for the Erie Seawolves on May 28, 2011. Photo courtesy of Erie SeaWolves

“Every time he told me to do something, and I did it at home, the problem would be gone,” he said. “I was very impressed with everything he did, especially when it came to going for teams this off-season and getting ready for spring training.”

Crosby has also been working with Red Sox trainers to adjust his pitching mechanics, which were thought to have contributed to his shoulder and elbow issues.

“Our pitching coaches want to give him better balance through his delivery and help him repeat that, and it’s certainly a focus on the pitching side of things,” Crockett said. “We’re always looking for better body control on our players.”

Though it’s not easy to change a pitching style, Crosby has been working on developing a more controlled pitch and trying to retrain his arm with every throw he makes, he said.

“I’m throwing from a lower spot, which takes stress off the shoulder,” Crosby said. “I’m trying to be more controlled. I used to be like a wild man throwing off the mound, and I’ve definitely been more balanced and controlled.”

He will likely play for the Pawtucket Sea Dogs, the organization’s AAA affiliate in Rhode Island, but his performance at spring training will determine whether he plays AAA or AA ball.

“No teams have been decided at this point,” Crockett said. “He’ll need to come out and throw in spring training, and we’ll evaluate what role he’ll be in and what the best position for him is going to be.”

Though he’s thrilled to be in Fort Myers for spring training, it’s been particularly hard to be away from his family this year because Crosby and his wife, Haley Balluff Crosby, have a daughter, Tessa, who just turned 1 last month. He originally intended to bring his family with him to Fort Myers, but a lack of affordable short-term housing has kept Haley and Tessa at their home in Elburn, and Crosby is missing them.

“Haley and I have been doing this ever since we were together, so it’s something we deal with,” he said. “We don’t like it, but what else are you going to do? It sucks being away now because I’m missing a month of being with my daughter and watching her development. We FaceTime (a video chat program) every day, and I talk to her, but she’s off doing her 1-year-old things, whether it’s climbing on top of her scooter, climbing on top of the couch, running away, trying to climb the stairs … that time is precious, and once the call ends, I feel terrible that I’m not there. But it’s not like I can do anything about it—I’ve just got to do my job.”
SPT hens10p
His family should be able to join him in Pawtucket, which is located near Providence, R.I., he said. Rents are lower there, and it’s just an hour’s drive to Boston if the Red Sox call him up as a relief pitcher.

Eight years in MiLB and MLB ball have taught him that success is as much about hard work and attitude as it is about talent and luck.

“The only thing you can control is how hard you work toward your goal,” he said. “If it works out, great. If not, then you did everything; you can honestly look yourself in the mirror and say I did everything I possibly could to reach my dream.”

It’s a lesson he’d like to pass on to the young Kaneland baseball players who are dreaming of a baseball career.

“There’s no substitute for a good attitude and hard work,” he said. “That’ll take you further than you think. If you are a good guy and you work hard, a professional team is going to hold on to you longer. I’ve seen guys in the pros have all the talent in the world, and they have a head full of crap, and it doesn’t work out for them. Nobody wants a player who’s selfish or has problems off the field. Just keep your head down and keep working toward your goal.”

Waubonsee offers fall high school baseball

in Baseball/Community Sports by

SUGAR GROVE—Waubonsee Community College will host a fall baseball league for high school players who are not participating in any fall high school sports. This IHSA-approved league is the area’s longest running and most economical fall league. Over 2,100 players have participated throughout the past 29 years with hundreds going on to compete at the collegiate level.

The league is scheduled to run from Wednesday, Aug. 28, through the end of September. Games will be played on every Tuesday and Thursday during the month of September beginning at 4 p.m. each day. All games will be played on Waubonsee Community College’s baseball diamond in Sugar Grove and all players signed up are guaranteed playing time. Each of the eight game days will provide players the opportunity to use Waubonsee’s outdoor hitting facility that features two astro-turfed batting cages and multiple hitting stations.

Individuals interested in playing should attend an organizational meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 4:30 p.m. on the Sugar Grove campus. The meeting will take place in the college’s Auditorium, located behind Erickson Hall, Waubonsee’s gymnasium. A $60 fee is due at the time of the meeting.

For information, contact Waubonsee Athletic Manager Dave Randall at (630) 466-2527.

Knights nine close out summer session

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KANELAND—It was time well-spent, if you’re Kaneland High School baseball.

The summer session for baseball teams usually involved getting the capable athletes to play in tandem with one another, and hope for better things in nine months time.

Kaneland (20-10-3) was able to see how it was able to play together and how much hope it could have after its performance in the IHSBCA St. Charles East Regional on Monday against Cary-Grove High School and on Tuesday against Batavia.

The Knights fell in a 5-4 squeaker to No. 7 Batavia on Tuesday, after vanquishing the No. 15 seed Trojans by a 4-1 clip on Monday.

KHS coach Brian Aversa felt the Knight lineup acclimated well once school was out.

“Guys were really settling in,” Aversa said. “A lot of these guys are seniors now and they owned it. They know that win or lose, it’s on them.”

Batavia was set for a Wednesday semifinal matchup against St. Charles East/Geneva at regional host St. Charles East. The game was not completed in time for press.

The Bulldogs lineup got to Knights starter Steven Limbrunner early on Tuesday, connecting for five runs in the first three innings of action thanks to a single, three doubles and a triple. Matt O’Sullivan shut the door on Batavia’s lineup in the final four innings.

KHS came back in the third inning as Joe Panico was hit by a pitch and Austin Wheatley singled. Two batters later, a Nick Stratman grounder went under the third baseman’s legs allowing Panico to score. Two batters later, Matt Rosko’s two-run double made it 5-3.

Kaneland would cut it to 5-4 in the fifth after a Stratman RBI groundout scored Wheatley, but that play would close out the scoring for the afternoon.

“Batavia’s a good team,” Aversa said. “It was nice for our guys to battle. There were things we couldn’t control, but I wouldn’t feel bad.”

Kaneland also did battle beginning on July 7 at the Wood Bat Tournament hosted by St. Charles East.

As the fourth seed in Pool A, the July 7 meetings had KHS lose to St. Charles East 3-2 and St. Charles North 5-1. July 8 saw Kaneland best regional final foe St. Francis 7-4 to conclude the Wood Bat festivities.

Additionally, Kaneland had two members of the lineup, catcher Joe Laudont and infielder Danny Hammermeister, get a slot on the 2014 Wayne DeMaar All-Division team that also included players from St. Charles North, Geneva, West Chicago, St. Charles East, Batavia, Larkin and St. Francis.

Before the Wood Bat action, KHS also went on a tour of early-season staple Cincinnati and took second in the Cincinnati Fourth of July Baseball Tournament that went four days. The Knights rattled off four straight wins before losing to the Cincinnati Mustangs 7-3 in the championship.

Tickle earns athletic honors at Coe College

in Baseball by
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CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA—Jake Tickle of Elburn earned an athletic letter for outstanding participation on the Coe College baseball team during the 2013-14 academic year. Tickle, a 2010 graduate of Kaneland High School, is the son of Elizabeth Tickle.

Tickle is a first-year letter winner in baseball. The baseball team is under the direction of 18th-year head coach Steve Cook. The Kohawks qualified for their seventh-straight Iowa Conference Tournament this season.

Kohawk athletics can be followed at www.CoeAthletics.com. Located near the heart of Cedar Rapids, Coe is a selective, private, nationally recognized liberal arts college providing superior quality educational experiences for students since 1851. Coe College has a reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment. Coe is dedicated to preparing students for fulfilling careers and graduate study.

Multi-tiered effort highlights summer league win over Batavia

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KANELAND—Humid conditions in Maple Park didn’t make things easy for the Batavia Bulldogs baseball lineup.

Neither did the steady inning management of Knights pitcher Steven Limbrunner and the bats of Nick Stratman and Danny Hammermeister, as the KHS brethren walloped Batavia 8-0 in summer league play on Monday.

“To get these guys a look that they deserve and that we need on our end, it’s to see what they can do for us and for the future,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “That’s why we play the bottom of the seventh today. We’ve got guys we haven’t seen yet and starting to gel with these guys that have the experience under their belts.”

Now 5-1-1 in area action since the circuit started in mid-June, the Knights were beneficiaries of a steady mound performance by Limbrunner, who didn’t allow a run in six innings of work.

“Steve looked great today,”Aversa said. “Keeping Batavia at no runs, that’s nice and he had a nice pitch count.”

The party started early for KHS as Austin Wheatley singled and three batters later, centerfielder Stratman jacked a ball over the fence for a 2-0 lead.

“It was good; it was a fastball down the middle and I just barely felt it come off the bat,” Stratman said.

The bottom of the third inning effectively put the game out of reach with the Knights clogging bases on singles from Joe Panico and Joe Laudont and a Stratman walk. Hammermeister hit a towering ball just several feet from leaving the yard, but all three runners came home for a 5-0 edge.

The good fortune of the summer is carrying a bit of the disposition of the 2014 postseason homestretch, which saw the second regional plaque in school history.

“It feels like momentum is carrying over, and we’re starting to get along with all the new kids and everything,” Stratman said.

Kaneland was set to host Class 4A State semifinalist South Elgin on Thursday, June 26, at 3 p.m.

Summer time blues

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Kaneland’s Monday meeting with MV ends in loss
GENEVA—In a stuffy setting at Geneva High School, the Knights’ summer league basketball team experienced their second Monday of the Geneva Summer League.

The result didn’t do much to improve the atmosphere.

Playing catchup for the majority of the running-clock tempo, the Knights took on Metea Valley of the Upstate Eight Conference and fell 46-31.

Kaneland fell to 2-3 in the early going of the summer session.

A physical game that saw junior Dylan Vaca contribute 16 points, the Knights and Mustangs each offered different styles of play, with the Mustangs more fast-break inclined.

“It’s a work in progress,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said. “We’re more in a ‘let them play’ mode and have them try to learn our offense. Defensively, we’re not very sharp. This is summer ball and I like to look at it as giving our kids a chance to play.”

A three by Brett Hansen brought an early deficit closer to 12-9, but Metea Valley used quick passes and its speed advantage to go up 18-9. Down 20-12, Vaca’s foul shot trip closed the deficit to 20-14 before the Mustangs cemented the seven-point halftime margin.

The Knights were able to cut it to five at 25-20, and Vaca was later able to bring it to within 32-24, Metea Valley was running on too many cylinders for the Knights attack.

It was an opportunity to see what Kaneland was able to do in the midst of camp action and to see what players like Vaca, David and inside presence Jacob Gomes could bring to the floor.

“You expect up and down during the summer. This is going to be Dylan’s third year. He had big games during the season until he got hurt. He needs to be a big contributor this year, and I think he will be,” Johnson said.

After facing St. Charles East and Naperville Central on Wednesday in Viking territory, the Knights hit Geneva once again to meet both Streamwood and Waubonsie Valley on Monday, June 23, beginning at 5 p.m.

Sectional shutdown

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Baseball’s quest ends in semifinal against rival Sycamore
ROCHELLE, Ill.—Kaneland’s baseball season came to an end on June 4, not with a bang or a whimper.

Rather, it was the inability to connect aluminum to ball.

In a pitchers’ duel, Kaneland was denied a single hit off Sycamore pitcher Colan Treml, while suffering a Brett Weaver home run in the bottom of the fifth in a 1-0 elimation loss.

The Class 3A Rochelle Sectional semifinal loss ends the Kaneland season at 18-16, while Sycamore (26-12) was set to participate in Monday’s Rock Island Super-Sectional at Augustana College after beating Rockford’s Boylan Catholic on Saturday morning.

Treml’s nine-strikeout day was matched by Kaneland sophomore standout Anthony Holubecki, winner of the regional semifinal against Aurora Central Catholic just eight days prior.

Holubecki (6-3) went 5.1 innings in the loss. The defeat at the hands of Northern Illinois Big XII rival Sycamore knotted up the season series at two games apiece between the two programs.

“It’s tough to take; it’s just one swing,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “(Anthony) pitched a great game, and you can’t ask much more than two hits from your pitcher.”

The recent run by Kaneland helped to offset a little of the late-season blues that saw KHS drop six of its previous eight contests before the playoff run.

The only baserunners Kaneland was afforded in Ogle County were Curtis Thorson reaching on the first at-bat of the game, thanks to a shortstop error, an error that allowed Joe Panico to reach base in the second inning on a play that was originally ruled a hit, and Thorson reaching again on a shortstop miscue in the third inning. Treml then proceeded to retire the final 14 batters of the game.

“We knew Treml likes to throw first-pitch fastballs and obviously his slider and curveball were nasty. We were behind in the count. Obviously, we don’t like being in that position, so we were going to be aggressive with the first pitch,” Aversa said.

With the loss, occurring after the school’s second-ever regional plaque, the Knights say goodbye to seniors Tyler Carlson, Sean Dunphy, Nick Henne, Nate Hopkins, Kevin Kassinger, Nick Stahl, Thorson and Lucas Wolski.

“This last week has been awesome for all of us,” Aversa said. “It’s been a fun ride. These kids could have easily packed it in after Senior Night, but they hung in there and dusted themselves off.”

Photo by Patti Wilk

Sweet revenge leads to Sectional

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KHS no-hits ACC, outlasts St. Francis for first Regional crown since ‘11
PLANO—Do you remember what happened the last time Kaneland High School baseball captured a regional?

It led to a pileup on the Silver Cross Field mound in Joliet, Ill.

First things first, however, as the Knights braved the top-seeded St. Francis Saints of Wheaton in the Class 3A Plano Regional final on Saturday morning and won 4-1 in nine innings.

It marks the second regional title in school history and first since the State championship run three years ago. St. Francis beat Kaneland, 3-2 in the Kaneland Regional final of a year ago.

KHS got to exact playoff hurt on St. Francis after beating Aurora Central Catholic by a 12-0 margin in five innings on Friday evening, after losing to the Chargers in the penultimate regular season finale.

KHS also closed out its regular season with a 2-1 win on May 28 in Maple Park over Wheaton Warrenville South.

After losing six out of its previous eight, Kaneland has won three in a row and sits at 18-15 going into the Class 3A Rochelle Sectional.

“It feels really good after last year, losing on our own field. It’s great for our guys to battle, battle, battle and come back, and have heroes you wouldn’t expect. Hats off to Nick Stahl for doing a job today,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Stahl, a late-inning asset for the Knights this year, pitched 2.1 innings of relief and earned the win after relieving starter Curtis Thorson and Nate Hopkins, but also slammed a two-run homer to centerfield to cinch the game in the top of the ninth.

It was his second varsity at-bat of the year.

“He is a P.O. (pitcher only) to the extreme. They do not waste time in the cages. They know their role. I told him there was a chance he might be coming up and he should be ready. I told him to make sure you swing at something that’s your pitch,” Aversa said.

After tying the game in the top of the sixth inning on a single by Tyler Carlson that resulted in two St. Francis errors and allowed Thorson to score all the way from first, the Knights were able to hold St. Francis scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames.

In the ninth, Nick Stratman was hit by a pitch with one out. Two batters later, Joe Panico laced an RBI double to left center to give KHS the lead for good.

“It wasn’t just on me, it was a whole team win,” Panico said. “The kid left me a fastball. Confidence grew throughout the game. We treated it like any other game and came out on top.”

Stahl, who gave up just one hit and fanned two, allowed two baserunners but left them stranded in the ninth.

The talk of the game wasn’t his pitching performance, however.

“I was thinking straight fastball because he was down in the count. I’m a P.O. so I don’t really hit that much. I don’t really know what happened,” Stahl said.

In the win over the No. 3 seed Chargers, the No. 2 seed Knights scored four in the first, one in the second, five in the third and two in the fourth to trigger the mercy rule scenario.

“We’ve really been working on our approach at the plate,” Aversa said. “Seeing the ball and seeing the zone, we were just patient today.”

Catcher Joe Laudont went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI, while Carlson went 2-for-3 with a double and RBI.

Hurler Anthony Holubecki (5-2) earned the win while Nick Henne pitched the fifth for the abbreviated no-hitter.

“That’s not a pushover team,” Holubecki said. “The guys did a great job at the plate. Joe called a great game, and I was pretty decent at working ahead.”

Against WWS, Jacob Bachio’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth cinched the win for reliever Colton Fellows.

Kaneland was set to face Hampshire Regional champ Sycamore, whom the Knights beat two out of three times this season, in Rochelle. The winner of the sectional semifinal would face either Rochelle or Boylan Catholic on Saturday, June 7.

Editor note: Kaneland lost to Sycamore Wednesday 1-0. Anthony Holubecki pitched 5.1 innings and had nine strikeouts, but was outdueled by Sycamore’s Colan Treml who pitched a seven-inning no hitter, striking out 10 Knights. Kaneland finished the season 18-16 overall, 9-6 in NIB-12 play.

Ironing it out

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Photo: Junior Jacob Bachio makes a play on an ACC runner at second base. Kaneland lost the final regular season matchup with ACC, 6-0, and play the Chargers again today at 4:30 p.m. in Plano. Photo by Mary Paulson

KHS diamond boys fall in regular season finale to upcoming playoff foe
KANELAND—If adjustments have to be made, there’s no more ideal time than just before the playoffs.

For KHS baseball, the adjustments in the current layoff will have to do enough before today.

With just one game on the slate this past week, the Knights lost to the Aurora Central Catholic Chargers lineup in Maple Park by a final of 6-0, in what Kaneland hopes is not a precursor to their regional meeting.

KHS finishes the regular season with a mark of 15-15 and 9-6 in Northern Illinois Big XII play. Kaneland is currently in a funk that has seen it drop six out of its last seven contests.

Kevin Kassinger was tagged with the loss in the Friday encounter, going four innings while giving up four runs on six hits.

ACC scored two runs in the first, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and one in the sixth to seal the result.

On the Knights side, Nate Hopkins went 1-for-2 with a walk, while Kevin Fuchs went 1-for-3 in the losing cause.

All that remains is the postseason, which first takes the form of the 3A Plano Regional.

KHS is set to play on Thursday, May 29, at 4:30 p.m. against No. 3 ACC as the second seed. The winner faces either No. 1 St. Francis of Wheaton or No. 4 Sandwich. Sandwich had defeated No. 5 Plano 2-1, while ACC defeated IMSA 17-0 in Monday games.

The regional final would take place on Saturday, May 31, at 10 a.m.
A year ago, St. Francis got the better of Kaneland in the Kaneland Regional final by 3-2 clip, in the Knights’ first regional final opportunity since the State championship run of 2011.

Knights baseball makes diamond rough

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Photo: Senior Curtis Thorson pitching for the Knights at the Pack the Park Special Event. Photo by Mary Paulson

KANELAND—On Thursday, Kaneland went to the Northern Illinois Big XII well once again for a trip to Morris, but lost 4-1. On Saturday, KHS hosted non-conference rival St. Charles East in Maple Park and lost 4-2.

Kaneland also traveled to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for its Senior Night in Geneva, and faced Batavia only to lose 10-1. On Tuesday at Cary-Grove High School, the Knights earned a 6-4 win behind junior Nick Stratman’s five-inning effort and Anthony Holubecki’s four strikeouts in relief.

Kaneland sits at 15-14, with a 9-6 record in NIB-12 play, and just one regular season challenge left.

Facing the Redskins, Jacob Bachio went 1-for-2 with a run scored, while sophomore Holubecki was belted with the loss despite six strikeouts.

Against the Saints, Danny Hammermeister had an RBI groundout, and Stratman belted a solo homer in the seventh inning. Colton Fellows was tagged with the loss.

Sean Dunphy went 1-for-2 with an RBI against the Bulldogs, as Nick Henne suffered the loss on the mound.

The honorees before the varsity contest at the home of the Kane County Cougars were Harter Middle School student Drew Hahn, son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn, and dealing with Anaplastic Large-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Phil Kassinger—father of Knight baseball player Kevin Kassinger—who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer; and KHS softball coach Brian Willis, battling colon cancer. All proceeds collected were donated to the families.

Tuesday saw Stratman also score two runs and go 2-4 at the plate. Tyler Carlson was 2-4 with a run and an RBI while Hammermeister was 1-4 with a double, run scored and two RBI.

On Friday, the Knights travel to Aurora Central Catholic for the regular season ender.

Rivals come together in Cougar-land

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Photo: KHS softball coach Brian Willis, who is battling colon cancer, will be honored at Monday’s Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland-Batavia clash to benefit great causes
KANELAND—Area baseball teams aren’t only mindful of the postseason task ahead. They’re also willing and able to help out their fellow man.

“This annual tradition has given us an avenue to do something bigger than baseball and has allowed each of the programs involved to give back to the community,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

On Monday, May 19, at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars, Kaneland and Batavia will do battle for a Senior Night game that will benefit three honorees.

The honorees are Harter Middle School student Drew Hahn, son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn, and dealing with Anaplastic Large-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Phil Kassinger, father of Knight baseball player Kevin Kassinger, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer; and KHS softball coach Brian Willis, battling colon cancer.

“This year, we’ve found multiple needs in our community, and it is unfortunate that we can’t reach all the families that have been touched by this dreaded disease,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Willis, who is scheduled for his last chemotherapy treatment the day of the game, is thankful of the proceedings.

“Thankfully I am almost done and hope I am cleared of any cancer cells left in my body,” Willis said. “Every day a new struggle starts or continues and that is who we fight for.”

Admission is $5 for adults and students, with kids under 6 able to be admitted for free. All proceeds collected will be donated to the honorees and their families.

The game is also slated to be broadcast on BATV, highschoolcube.com and the radio. Shirts will be available for purchase and multiple silent auctions will be going toward the benefit of the families, as well.

“This will be a very special night for the seniors, their parents, both baseball programs, and the people that we will be honoring,” Aversa said.

First pitch for the sophomore game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., while the varsity is slated to begin at 7 p.m. under the lights.

Visit khs.kaneland.org/content/pack-park for more details.

May days going OK for baseball

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Photo: Senior catcher Sean Dunphy (above) catches a pop-up foul in the first inning against Oswego Saturday. Photos by Mary Paulson

KANELAND—Dealing with some rivalries and non-conference foes this past week, the Knights were tripped up after a close win.

On Monday, Kaneland traveled to Morris and lost 6-3. Tuesday saw the Knights lose again to Morris 4-2.

On Saturday in Maple Park against the Southwest Prairie Conference’s Oswego Panthers, the Knights fell victim to an 8-7 edging. That game was preceded by a trip to Sycamore and a 2-1 win.

Kaneland baseball now sits at a steady 14-11 clip, with a 9-5 mark in the Northern Illinois Big XII.

Facing Morris Monday, it was Nate Hopkins suffering the loss against the Redskins. On Tuesday, Curtis Thorson took the loss, but had nine strikeouts. Hammermeister went 1-1 with two RBI, while Hopkins went 1-1 with a double.

Against the visiting Panthers on Saturday, Thorson was tagged with the loss in the extra eighth inning after surrendering a run in relief.

Kaneland scored two runs in its half of the sixth to go up 7-5 before an unfortunate rally in the top of the seventh sent the game to an extra frame.

For the Knights, Tyler Carlson went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a double, while teammate Austin Wheatley went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Both Danny Hammermeister and Jacob Bachio went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.

Against the familiar black-and-gold adversaries last Thursday, KHS benefited from plating a run in the top of the seventh for the difference, thanks to a Joe Panico RBI. Sean Dunphy went 2-for-3 with a double. Nick Henne earned the win to improve to 4-0, thanks to retiring four batters. Nick Stahl earned his seventh save by stifling the final two hitters for Sycamore.

“Our staff has done a nice job of keeping us in games. We have to continue to get better defensively and offensively,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “We can hang with anyone in the state if we limit the errors and the extra outs that we give teams. ”

Kaneland treks to Morris for more NIB-12 action on Thursday. On Monday, May 19, Kaneland and Batavia celebrate Senior Night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, benefitting honorees whose families are battling cancer.

“I think we have a great community of former players and their families, and the connection to the community that we always make is a big draw,” Aversa said. “Plus I would like to think that Kaneland and Batavia are a couple of pretty good baseball programs, and we will both put on a good show with some good baseball. ”

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Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park May 19

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GENEVA—The Kaneland Knights and Batavia Bulldogs baseball teams want to pack the park at Geneva’s Fifth Third Bank Park May 19 to raise money for three honorary families to help them in their battles with cancer.

This year’s honorees include Kaneland softball head coach Brian Willis, Kaneland senior baseball player Kevin Kassinger’s father, Phil, and Drew Hahn, a 12-year-old Kaneland Harter Middle School student, whose father is the head baseball coach at Geneva High School.

The event will also be a senior night celebration.

Admission is $5, and in addition to sophomore and varsity baseball action, the event includes silent auctions. The sophomores play at 4:30 while the varsity teams take the field at 7 p.m.

For general information, donations or sponsorship information, contact Brian Aversa at brian.aversa@kaneland.org or visit Kaneland.org/content/pack-park.

Despite pair of losses, KHS still moving on basepaths

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KANELAND—The won/loss percentage may have sunk a tad, but Kaneland baseball has shown it has the talent on all sides of the diamond to work past troubles.

On May 1, defending conference champ Yorkville invaded Maple Park and won 11-1 in five innings, while Friday had the Aurora Christian Eagles slip past the Knights in a 1-0 affair. Saturday had a trip to Crystal Lake, Ill., to square off against the Prairie Ridge Wolves and a comeback win for KHS, 7-4. On Monday, a home-and-home series beginning at Sycamore had a 1-0 loss to the Spartans, while Tuesday saw the Knights turn the tables and beat Sycamore 3-2.

Kaneland is now 13-8, with a 8-3 mark in the Northern Illinois Big XII swing of things.

KHS also needs to spell the loss of catcher and two-hole hitter Joe Laudont, who suffered a broken thumb.

“I think that with the recent loss of Laudont to a broken thumb, we psychologically had a setback,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “Physically, we have the tools to continue to play at a high level of baseball like we did on Saturday against Prairie Ridge. We are trying to find guys to step up and fill that void in the lineup both offensively and defensively.”

Against Yorkville, Nate Hopkins was tagged with the loss after retiring just five hitters. Yorkville had seven runs in the top of the second. Tyler Carlson went 1-for-2 with an RBI to drive in Nick Stratman.

Stratman went 5.1 innings against AC and fell to 1-2, while giving up just three hits. The Eagles’ run came in the top of the sixth. Jacob Bachio went 1-for-2 with a walk.

Prairie Ridge took a 4-1 lead after four innings until Kaneland scored three in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh for the win.

Jordan Bock earned his first win on the mound by pitching the sixth inning, while Nick Stahl earned his fifth save while surrendering just two hits.

Sean Dunphy of Kaneland went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI, while Stratman went 1-for-4 with three RBI.

Curtis Thorson was tagged with the loss on Monday against Sycamore.

Hopkins helped the Knights even their series against Sycamore Tuesday, allowing only two runs over six innings. Carlson had a double and an RBI, while Stratman smacked a two-run home run to put the Knights ahead in a big three-run sixth-inning rally.

Kaneland prepares to face the host Sycamore in the final game of the series tonight at 4:30 p.m.

Case of the missing bats

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Baseball, Softball levels bear witness to no-hitters, perfect game
KANELAND—To win on the baseball or softball field, many things have to go right.

For a no-hitter or perfect game to be thrown, pitches have to go right past the bats with regularity.

Area residents have been privy to each of those if they’ve ventured out to see Kaneland baseball and softball this 2014 campaign, with softball talent Angie Morrow’s no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader at Geneva on April 19, and baseball’s Nate Hopkins tossing a no-no at Plano April 9, and sophomore hurdler Matt O’Sullivan’s perfect game for the lower-class level Knights against Yorkville last week.

For Morrow, this pitching feat was nothing new, having thrown a no-hitter against the Hampshire Whip-purs her freshman year as a Burlington Central Rocket. Morrow was able to keep composure during the 3-0 win.

“I had one my freshman year against Hampshire at Burlington. Those games don’t feel different. You don’t usually realize it until someone tells you. I just try to stay within myself,” Morrow said.

The very act of pitching and concentrating can almost serve as a distraction from the daunting task.

“There’s always something you’re working on, and it’s until the end of the game when it’s over and someone says congratulations,” Morrow said.

For Hopkins’ 11-0 win in Plano against the Reapers, the Knights saw no-hit stuff from Hopkins in the six-inning affair, but it was a multi-faceted victory.

“I feel like defense is definitely a big part of it,” Hopkins said. “There was a play at shortstop that saved my no-hitter and really helped me.”

It made for a memorable April Wednesday.

“I think I was dealing, and I feel like I was going really well, and the team’s not supposed to say anything during the game. I didn’t even know there were no hits until the sixth inning.”

Elements from multiple areas need to converge for the noteworthy achievement.

“A no-hitter or perfect game takes a lot to happen,” KHS varsity baseball head coach Brian Aversa said. “It’s not just the pitcher, but defense is very important, as well. You need a few things to go your way. Joe Panico made a diving stop up the middle to save a hit at short. You need to catch a break or two. I think no-hitters are a culmination of many things, not just someone going out there and throwing well.”

KHS also got a glimpse of what could be on the horizon with a “perfecto” tossed by lefty sophomore Matt O’Sullivan against Yorkville last Thursday.

The 21-up, 21-down effort went 11-0 in the favor of the Knights, with O’Sullivan aware of the Foxes’ tendencies.

“The game before, we kind of saw and learned they liked to chase the high stuff,” O’Sullivan said. “I tried to get ahead in the count and then throw the high stuff.”

The sophomore knows that it’s a team effort for a perfect result.

“You’ve got to have defense. There were a couple of diving catches. There’s no way that a no-hitter’s possible without it,” O’Sullivan said.

With the recent rash of exceptional pitching accomplishments, the Kaneland baseball and softball programs have shown what’s possible with all aspects working on the diamond.

Steady lineup

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Photo: Sophomore Anthony Holubecki went six strong innings Monday against Yorkville. Photo by Patti Wilk

Baseball looks to solidify against Yorkville, DeKalb, Wheaton Academy
KANELAND—Compared to last year’s mediocre season output, it appears this year’s version of the Knights on the diamond has found its footing quite well.

This past week saw a home defense against rival Yorkville on Monday, seeing a 2-0 win at KHS. On Saturday, Kaneland went to West Chicago to face Wheaton Academy and fell 3-1, but managed to snatch a home-and-home with DeKalb, winning 5-3 and 7-3 down the Knights way.

Following Monday’s action, Kaneland is 11-4 and 7-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII landscape.
Anthony Holubecki on Monday took the win after RBIs from Joe Panico and Tyler Carlson in the bottom of the sixth. Nick Stahl earned the save, his fourth.

Saturday’s non-conference affair against the host Warriors saw Colton Fellows (2-1) get tagged with the loss, despite a steady six-inning effort with three strikeouts. Fellows allowed three runs on six hits.

Joe Laudont went 1-for-3 with the lone RBI in the fifth inning.

The Friday matchup with DeKalb had Nate Hopkins earn his second win of the season, allowing three runs on seven hits, while Stahl pitched a perfect seventh for the save.

The Knights were able to pound out 15 hits, including Laudont going 3-for-4 with a double and triple, and Holubecki going 3-for-4 with three doubles to his credit.

Last Thursday, it was a four-run rally to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the sixth that helped KHS win out. Nick Henne retired the last four batter to earn his first win of the season.

Jacob Bachio went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, while Lucas Wolski went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.

The Knights host Yorkville on Thursday, May 1.

Baseball dethrones DeKalb, sits at 8-3

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Key second inning, pitching prowess make good recipe for NIB-12 win
KANELAND—It’s good to be a member of Kaneland baseball at the moment.

By that same token, it must be a giant headache to be on the opposite side of the diamond.

With an 8-3 record, and 4-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII, the Knights are seeing timely hitting and borderline dominant pitching at the front and back ends of the depth chart.

On Monday in DeKalb, the Knights endured a 35-minute lightning delay to stifle the host Barbs 7-2.

Earlier action in the week had Kaneland host Geneva and emerge with a 7-6 win in nine innings. In a three-game NIB-12 tussle with the Rochelle Hubs, the Knights engineered a three-game sweep, beating the Hubs 9-2 in Ogle County on Friday, winning 7-5 on Thursday in Maple Park and beginning the series with a 7-5 win on April 16 at home.

On Monday, winning sophomore starter Anthony Holubecki struck out seven in five innings, while walking four. Reliever Nick Stahl was lights out with four strikeouts in a perfect two-inning outing.

Joe Laudont was 2-3 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored, while teammate Tyler Carlson was 3-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Down 1-0, Kaneland poured on a four-run rally. Joe Panico’s sacrifice fly scored Connor Fedderly, while an RBI single by Laudont worked for the eventual game-winning RBI. Carlson reached on a play that resulted in two errors by the DeKalb defense bringing home Bachio and courtesy runner Austin Wheatley for a 4-1 advantage.

The score would remain in stasis through a third-inning lightning delay under threatening skies until the top of the seventh, where the Knights’ three insurance runs came thanks to RBI singles from Laudont and Nate Hopkins, along with an RBI double from Nick Stratman.

‘We’ve got some work to do these next couple days to be happy,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “Anthony is throwing well. Obviously, his pitch count was a little high for our liking. When he’s on, he’s on, and when he’s not, he’s not. He did a good job of coming back after that lightning delay and being a little more efficient than what he was.”

Laudont played a sizable part in the win, with his bat as well as behind the plate.

“Joe (Panico) is always great to hit behind because I know he’ll get on in front of me,” Laudont said. “He’s a great guy to drive in and gets me fired up.”

In the extra-inning win against former conference rival Geneva, Nick Henne earned the win in relief, while Laudont’s RBI single was the game-winning hit.

On Friday, the Knights were amped from a six-run sixth inning to ice the contest in the seven-run win. In Thursday’s two-run squeaker at Kaneland, Fedderly emerged with a 3-for-3 day with two driven in. KHS scored two in the bottom of the sixth to break it open and give Henne the win in relief. Action on April 18, coming a day after snow had hit the area, had KHS put up three runs in the second inning for the win. Carlson had two hits, while Holubecki had 10 Ks in the win.

On Thursday, April 24, Kaneland continues its series with visiting DeKalb.

Kaneland baseball hits Ohio

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KANELAND—Playing at the University of Cincinnati against Ken Griffey Jr.’s former high school team was the highlight of a spring break trip for the Kaneland baseball team that featured more cancelations than games.

The Knights’ ability to get out to a field and get regular season action underway had been hampered by the difficult winter and early spring, but were able to find their way to Ohio for a Friday game against Archbishop Moeller at the Bearcats’ home, Marge Schott Stadium. Moeller defeated the Knights 8-4.

The Knights made the most of a trip down south, where there were more cancellations, even taking in a Cincinnati Reds-St. Louis Cardinals game at Great American Ballpark.

“Even though we didn’t play more than one game, we got a lot accomplished as a team as far as team bonding and having fun goes. We also rented an indoor facility on two different days and got some good practice in,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “The good thing is, we played with the best, we know what we are capable of doing, we just have to go out and do that now. So if anything, this trip got these kids believing in what we are capable of doing.”

On Tuesday, KHS suffered a 7-2 setback at the hands of host West Aurora.

Kaneland is now 0-3 on the young season.

Against Moeller, the 17th-ranked team in the nation in the USA Today rankings, KHS took a 2-0 lead after the top of the 1st and a 4-1 lead after its turn in the 3rd. Moeller returned the favor and then some with five in the 4th and two more in the 6th to ice it.

Hurler Anthony Holubecki (pictured above) was tagged with the loss after 4 1/3 innings and six runs (one earned) on three hits.

Curtis Thorson went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Joe Laudont went 1-for-3 with an RBI triple.

“We will make small adjustments here and there throughout our lineup and our pitching staff,” Aversa said. “The toughest part is going a full week, or in last year’s case, two weeks, without consistently playing games. Once we get into that groove, I think we will be much more comfortable with what we are doing both at the plate and in the field. We’ve played two games and have only had one practice on our field. We just have to take advantage of every opportunity that we have when we can get on a field to practice.”

Against West Aurora, KHS got an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second before surrendering five runs in the bottom of the second. The Blackhawks added another run in both the fourth and sixth innings to claim victory. Joe Laudont and Austin Wheatley went 1-3, while Joey Panico went 1-2 with a run and a walk. Nick Stahl took the loss for the Knights.

The Knights were scheduled for a road game at Plano on Wednesday, followed by a home matchup with Hononegah in Rockton, Ill., on Thursday, April 10, and a Northern Illinois Big XII crossover tussle with host Sterling on Saturday, April 12.

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