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Knights can’t find friendly diamond

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CAROL STREAM, Ill.—Knight baseball were finally able to get out on the field to begin the 2014 regular season.

It shall have to wait a bit longer for its first win to be in the books.

Housed at the American Legion fields in Carol Stream, Ill., the Knights took on former conference rival Batavia, only to lose in a 2-1 squeaker.

“It was nice to see some things that we did well and it was good to see what we need to still work on,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “We will be able to figure things out here pretty quickly, and hopefully we can get in a rhythm getting some games in if Mother Nature cooperates.”

The Bulldogs scored single runs in the bottom of the third and fifth innings, while Kaneland plated a run in the sixth inning.

Curtis Thorson led Kaneland with two hits in the losing effort, and Nick Stahl earned the loss on the mound.

The Knights were bound for the Cincinnati area for a three-game spring break trip, beginning on Thursday, April 3, at Bishop Elder. On Friday, April 4, the Knights square off against Archbishop Moeller, alma mater of Ken Griffey, Jr., and face Dixie Heights on Saturday, April 5.

2014 Baseball Preview: Big hopes in Big XII

in Baseball by

Photo: Junior catcher Danny Hammermeister and senior catcher Sean Dunphy practice indoors with the baseball team. Photo by Patti Wilk

Diamond crew looks to turn page, rebound from a year ago
KANELAND—Knights baseball in 2014 represents, in essence, a new beginning.

One year after getting bumped in its own Class 3A regional final by Wheaton’s St. Francis to finish just 13-18, KHS said goodbye to 15 seniors and the last remnants of the 2011 State champs.

This year, a somewhat new gaggle of varsity players take the field and look to remedy the first losing campaign for Kaneland baseball since 2006.

Bright spots can be located in the fact that the 2013 roster had current contributors around for the first regional game win in two years that occurred over Sandwich High School, and the talent familiar with the winning tradition of the last decade.

“It kind of feels that way every year, we bring in a bunch of guys,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “This class is a junior-dominated baseball class. We have seven seniors, and those guys have experience, but not all are position players. We have a young squad and brought up two sophomores.”

At the head of the positive contribution could be returning all Northern Illinois Big XII standout Tyler Carlson, getting a late jump on things due to basketball. The senior will switch to first base in 2014, putting the pieces in place for other returnees.

“He’s going to move over to first, and he was an all-conference third baseman for us. We see that we can move him around where we need him the most. We lost Joe Komel but, we have guys like Curtis Thorson, who’s going to be great in the outfield and guys like Nate Hopkins who can pitch and play the outfield, and Nick Stahl who we’re going to be leaning on a lot this year,” Aversa said.”

The pitching staff taking the Maple Park mound will be on the young side, as well, but with room to grow.

“We feel confident in what we’re doing with these guys and what we’ve seen so far,” Aversa said.

Hopkins, Anthony Holubecki, Thorson and Stahl look to make up the four-man starting rotation, with a by-committee angle to the late-inning outs until someone emerges.

Juniors Nick Stratman and Colton Fellows could see time on the bump for the Knights during 2014, as well.

“We’re going to feel our way through spring break and see who’s our short-inning relief guy,” Aversa said.

Joining Carlson around the infield are personnel like Joe Panico, Austin Wheatley, Jake Bilotta and Jake Bachio. Sophomore Joe Laudont and senior Sean Dunphy don the “tools of ignorance” behind home plate.

Outfielders include Thorson, Lucas Wolski, Connor Fedderly, Hopkins and Holubecki.

For diamonds in the rough, the head coach feels two of the capable arms could surprise.

“We had two guys we weren’t sure about in the summer in Stratman and Fellows. Both have kind of really opened our eyes off the mound. We’re pleasantly surprised,” Aversa said.

Other Knights looking to make a contribution include seniors River Dunne, Nick Henne and Kevin Kassinger, and juniors Jordan Bock, Kevin Fuchs, Dan Hammermeister and Steve Limbrunner.

The Northern Illinois Big XII landscape will provide a just testing ground for the Kaneland ranks in 2014.

“Sycamore’s always great with a great coach, and Yorkville—they’re the two top teams and everyone’s going to be chasing them,” Aversa said.

The schedule features a spring break trip the first week of April while the area thaws, to the Cincinnati area and schools like Moeller High School—defending state champs and alma mater of Ken Griffey, Jr.

“We’re going to be tested and see what good baseball looks like, and hopefully by the time we get back from our spring break trip, we’ll be going into conference playing at such a high level that teams are going to be ‘holy cow’,” Aversa said.

The season begins on Tuesday, March 25, at Plainfield North, with conference battles beginning on Monday, April 14, against visiting Rochelle. Monday, May 19, has the usual Fifth Third Bank Ballpark matchup in Geneva against Batavia.

Former Knight champs boost CSBL Joliet squad in postseason

in Baseball/Community Sports by

Photo: Former KHS baseball player Brian Dixon (left) helped the Joliet Dirtbags baseball team beat the Crestwood Pantheers 14-4 in seven innings on Thursday in Midlothian, Ill. The Dirtbags qualified to compete in the NABF Major Regional tournament, set to begin Thursday, Aug. 1. The team features a pair of former Knights, with pitcher Kyle Davidson also on the team. Courtesy Photo

Davidson on mound, Dixon with glove help Dirtbags to 14-4 rout
MIDLOTHIAN—The Joliet Dirtbags baseball team had some nice moments before its end in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League’s postseason tournament, and two former Knights were the reason why.

Former Knight and current Millikin Big Blue Kyle Davidson pitched a strong six innings and teammate and fellow former Knight Brian Dixon played strong on the infield to propel the team to a 14-4 win over the Crestwood Panthers in seven innings last week.

The league tournament journey came to an end for the Dirtbags by a final of 9-2 on Friday at Madison Meadows in Lombard, Ill. By virtue of their finish, the Dirtbags, with five members of the Millikin team, are set to compete in the NABF Major Regional beginning on Thursday, Aug. 1.

The finals of the CSBL tourney had Lombard beat Beecher on Saturday, 8-0.

The Dirtbags, now 18-19, were faced with a total elimination on Thursday after a 13-3 rout suffered at Homewood-Flossmoor High School to the Beecher Mustangs.

However, the team turned around its fortunes against Crestwood in its big win.

Davidson was able to hold off a rally from the mound after giving up a two-run homer for a 4-3 disadvantage and fanned six members of the Crestwood lineup, giving up four runs on five hits.

“If we lost, we go home, and the same with them,” Davidson said. “We had to come out and play our best game.”

Dixon, who was moved from his usual No. 8 or No. 9 hole, to second in the order by Dirtbags skipper Kevin Campbell, smacked an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth to tie the score at 4-4.

After a bases loaded walk broke the tie, Dixon (1-for-5, RBI) came home on a two-run single, effectively icing the game at 7-4.

“I was not expecting to bat (second),” Dixon said. “I like it; it’s different and it’s nice to get a different feel, and I took a different approach to it.”

In a do-or-die situation like the one presented on Thursday, Dixon preferred the smart approach to the hacking attack.

“Now is the time to be smart, definitely,” Dixon said. “That’s the way I’m looking at it. If it’s the right pitch and right count, I’m taking it.”

Dixon, at second base, was able to stab a liner off the Panthers lineup with runners on base in the top of the fifth that protected the lead.

Joliet scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth for an 11-4 lead, and scored three more to end it via the mercy rule, the last of which coming on a passed ball.

“Looking at their stats, I knew their top four guys were probably their best, so I tried to pound them, and cruise with the other guys,” Davidson said.

The Dirtbags’ next obstacle, the NABF Major Regional, is hosted by Beecher.

Summer close-out

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Boylan Catholic ends Knight baseball’s summer season
KANELAND—After the events of Monday in Maple Park, it seems like the lineup from Boylan Catholic of Rockford was a little better than the No. 13 seed.

Boylan traveled to No. 4 KHS on Monday to compete at the Phil Lawler Classic, which traditionally marks the end of IHSBCA summer competition, and solved the hosts in a 7-3 outing.

The Knights finished the summer with an 18-14-2 record, an acceptable turnaround from a 2013 regular season that ended under .500.

The two schools were part of the St. Charles East Regional, with Boylan scheduled to play Batavia on Tuesday.

Boylan took advantage of select fielding miscues throughout the game. Both teams had to wait 62 minutes to start after a downpour hit the area five minutes before the first pitch.

“They kept just scratching a run across and fighting, fighting, fighting,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to and didn’t get the hits we needed to.”

Boylan managed a run in the first and a run in the second off of starter Nate Hopkins for a 2-0 lead. The visitors plated two more in the fourth and two more in the fifth to go up 6-0 before Kaneland finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth.

Despite Hopkins being on the short end of the loss, Aversa and company value his skills and need him for the future.

“Nate is definitely one of those kids we’ll lean on, and I think our pitching will be one of our strengths,” Aversa said.

After Danny Hammermeister walked with one out, Curtis Thorson drove him in with a single two batters later.

The bottom of the sixth saw KHS convert on the longball thanks to catcher Joe Laudont’s homer to left that closed the deficit to 6-2.

Boylan managed another run in the top of the seventh for a five-run lead. Down five runs with three outs remaining, Connor Fedderly scored on a fielder’s choice play gone awry off the bat of Laudont to get within 7-3. After a walk loaded the bases, however, the visitors coaxed a strikeout and groundout to the pitcher to end the threat and the game.

What a ‘dirtbag’

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Former Knight Dixon finds role with Joliet Dirtbags men’s team
KANELAND—For countless players of high school baseball, playing for your school is all you can hope for, much less be on a field celebrating a State championship.

Kaneland High School graduate Brian Dixon checked both of those things off his list in 2011.
Now, after suiting up for the Millikin University Big Blue the last two seasons, the former Knight also finds himself in the amateur men’s baseball circuit.

Dixon currently plays for the Joliet Dirtbags, a team that is part of the Chicago Suburban Baseball League. The league features teams from the Chicagoland area, including from Lombard and Oswego, Ill. Home games for the Dirtbags take place at Joliet Catholic High School during the summer.

Featuring players in college or one year out of college, the CSBL has seen a select few make it to Major League Baseball, like most recent examples Ian Krol (Naperville, Ill.) of the Washington Nationals and George Kontos (Lincolnwood, Ill.) of the San Francisco Giants.

Dixon, an Art/Graphics Design major at Millikin, just wanted to be in the best baseball shape he could be.

“I got to know Coach (Kevin) Campbell at Millikin, and when he mentioned there was a spot on the team, I took it,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who patrols second for the fourth-year Dirtbags, has seen a marked improvement in his game in his first year for the CSBL.

“I’ve really improved on hitting and getting on base since Kaneland,” Dixon said. “I’ve gotten stronger and had more confidence.”

Going as far as Waukegan, Ill., for league games, Dixon has become accustomed to the amateur travel setting, helped by his play for Millikin, and the five-strong Millikin connection in Joliet that includes fellow State champ Kyle Davidson.

“There’s a lot of guys from St. Francis in Joliet, and there’s some guys with Millikin, including coach Campbell. It was easy to step into that group right away, and now we’re all familiar with each other,” Dixon said.”

Campbell feels Dixon is a player the 10-8 Dirtbags are fortunate to have.

Dixon is hitting .273 with an on base percentage of .418.

“Guys like him are good to build around, and I’ve seen them in action. You can stick them in the eight or nine-hole and they hold their own against teams with Division I talent,” Campbell said.

For now, Dixon doesn’t seem to mind what pedigree the other teams like the Oswego Cats bring to the diamond. When he’s not working at the Kane County Forest Preserve or hanging with friends, he’s happy to play like a Dirtbag.

“It’s a team with good players, and it’s definitely competitive,” Dixon said.

Taking summer stock

in Baseball by
Tyler Carlson - File photo

Photo: Tyler Carlson contributed a couple RBI, but it wasn’t enough as the Knights fell short in their Summer League comeback bid against Sycamore 7-6 on Monday. File Photo

Sycamore bests Kaneland in summer league action
SYCAMORE—It’s never a nice feeling to lose to a close and storied rival like Sycamore, but you can try to find some encouraging developments within.

A back-and-forth tilt on a sunny and breezy Monday in Sycamore off of Airport Road went Sycamore’s way in a 7-6 comeback win during the end of June.

Kaneland, at 7-6, has two more summer league contests before the tournament and IHSCBA postseason circuit begins in one week.

KHS had Colton Fellows, Nick Stahl and Kevin Kassinger get time on the mound, with Fellows working the first half of the action.

“Colton is one of those guys that’ll be right there in the mix, and we expect big things of him,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “He had a strong sophomore season, and we’re feeling him out and seeing what he can do and what pitches he throws well.”

Fellows failed to get much run support early, and the Knights found themselves down 2-0 after single runs in the first and second innings.

The top of the fourth inning saw KHS load the bases on two errors and a single, and Jacob Bachio’s double play managed to bring home the first run. Jake Bilotta’s single brought home Joe Panico to tie the score at 2-2.

Kaneland took a lead with a two-spot in the top of the fifth, thanks to an RBI single by Ty Carlson and an RBI double by Danny Hammemeister.

Sycamore’s double in the bottom of the fifth tied the score at 4-4, and the team managed three more runs to take a 7-4 lead.

That left three outs for KHS to try and rally some runs, beginning with a single, infield error and walk. Carlson reached on an infield single to drive home a run, followed by a Joe Laudont sac fly. However, a double-play stifled the remaining rally and ended the game.

“I told the guys that they’re going to get opportunities, but they’re opportunities to fail or opportunities to succeed. Some guys grasped the opportunities and some need to buckle down,” Aversa said.

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The KHS baseball squad, with a 3.27 GPA for the season, earned an IHSA Team Academic Award. This award recognizes teams that maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout their respective season.


2013 Spring Athletic Banquet Awards

in Baseball/Boys Track/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Softball/Spring Sports by

The Kaneland High School Athletics Department on Thursday, June 6, announced the award winners for varsity high school athletics.

Below are those winners.

Knight Award

for three-sport athletes:
Ashley Castellanos—Cross Country,
Basketball, Track and Field;
Sarah Grams—Tennis, Basketball, Softball;
Brooke Harner—Tennis, Basketball, Soccer;
Dan Miller—Golf, Basketball, Baseball
Female Athlete of the Year: Sarah Grams
Male Athlete of the Year: Matt Limbrunner
Female Birkette Award: Sarah Grams
Male Birkette Award: Dan Miller

2013 Spring NIBXII
All Conference

Girls Track:
Brianna Bower, Ashley Castellanos, Victoria Clinton, Christina Delach, Allie Heinzer, Jessica Kucera, Amanda Lesak, Aislinn Lodwig, Sydney Strang, Lauren Zick, Abby Dodis, Kyla Goodine, Kaltrina Ismaili, Rachel Steinmiller, Elle Tattoni
Boys Track:
Dylan Kuipers, Kory Harner, Tanner Andrews, Nate Dyer, Brandon Cottier, Brandon Bishop, Ben Barnes, Isaac Swithers, Conor Johnson, Nathaniel Kucera, Kyle Carter, Luis Acosta, Dylan Nauert
Girls Soccer:
Jordan Ginther, Delaney Stryczek, Madi Jurcenko, Courtney Diddell, Sage Schlehofer
Hayley Contorno, Allyson O’Herron, Lanie Callaghan, Lexi Roach, Paige Kuefler
Matt Limbrunner, Dan Miller, Tyler Carlson

2013 Boys
Track and Field Awards

MVP—Track: Dylan Nauert
MVP—Field: Tanner Andrews
Drendel Award: Jay Markuson
Conor Johnson, Kory Harner, Brad Kigyos, Brandon Cottier, Marshall Farthing, John Meisenger
Ron Probst Award: Ben Barnes
All Conference:
Dylan Kuipers, Kory Harner, Tanner Andrews, Nate Dyer, Brandon Cottier, Brandon Bishop, Ben Barnes, Isaac Swithers, Conor Johnson, Nathaniel Kucera, Kyle Carter, Luis Acosta, Dylan Nauert
State Qualifiers:
Conor Johnson and Kyle Carter—
4x800m, 4x400m Relays;
Luis Acosta—4x800m Relay;
Nathaniel Kucera—4x800m,
4x400m relays, 400m Dash;
Brandon Bishop and Brandon Cottier—
4x100m Relay, 200m Dash;
Ben Barnes—4x100m Relay;
Dylan Nauert—4x100m Relay, 4x400m Relay,
110m Hurdles, 300m Hurdles;
Tanner Andrews—Triple Jump;
Marshall Farthing—High Jump;
Nate Dyer—Shot Put;
Dylan Kuipers and Kory Harner—Pole Vault

2013 Girls
Track and Field Awards

MVP: Ashley Castellanos, Lauren Zick
Most Improved:
Murphy Garcia, Kyla Goodine
Maggie Brundige, Ashley Castellanos,
Abby Dodis
State Qualifiers:
Brianna Bower—3200m Run;
Victoria Clinton—1600m Run;
Ashley Castellanos—Triple Jump,
4x400m Relay;
Amanda Lesak—4x800m Relay,
4x400m Relay;
Sydney Strang—4x800m Relay;
Lauren Zick—4x400m Relay, Long Jump;
Christina Delach—Pole Vault;
Allie Heinzer—4x400m Relay;
Jessica Kucera—4x800m Relay;
Aislinn Lodwig—4x800m Relay

2013 Varsity Girls
Soccer Awards

Jordan Ginther, Anne Marie Giese,
Brooke Harner
Most Improved Player: Emily Grams
Rookie of the Year:
Sage Schlehofer, Kiandra Powell
Coach’s Award:
Courtney Diddell, Heather Ortiz,
Delaney Stryczek
Lady Knights Award:
Michelle Ortiz, Brittany Olson,
Madison Jurcenko
Most Valuable Player: Jordan Ginther
All Conference:
Sage Schlehofer, Jordan Ginther, Delaney Stryczek, Madison Jurcenko, Courtney Diddell
All Conference-Honorable Mention:
Kiandra Powell

2013 Softball Awards
Defensive Player of the Year:
Hayley Contorno
Offensive Player of the Year:
Allyson O’Herron, Lexi Roach
Lady Knight Award: Lexi Roach
Captains: Allyson O’Herron, Lanie Callaghan
NiB-12 All Conference:
Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Allyson
O’Herron, Lexi Roach, Lanie Callaghan
All Conference Honorable Mention:
Sarah Grams, Ellissa Eckert
Conference MVP: Allyson O’Herron

2013 Boys Baseball Award
Mr. Kaneland Baseball: Dan Miller
MVP Offensive: Matt Limbrunner
MVP Defensive: Joe Pollastrini, Dan Miller
Most Improved Player: Tyler Bellock
NIBXII All Conference:
Matt Limbrunner, Dan Miller, Tyler Carlson
All Conference Honorable Mention:
Joshua Cohrs, Tyler Bellock

Baseball spiked by Spartans

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Knights nab first postseason win in 2 years, but loses in regional final
KANELAND—After getting upended by DeKalb in the regional semifinal in 2012, to play for a regional plaque in 2013 was a welcome sight for Kaneland baseball.

But the sight of a regional plaque is all that can be afforded, rather than grasping it.

The Knights took a day-long break before getting to the field due to rain in the area, ultimately beating Sandwich on Friday by a final of 6-0. They followed that up with a tough 3-2 loss to St. Francis of Wheaton on Saturday morning.

Kaneland finished the season with a 13-18 record, its first losing campaign since 2006, which ended in a regional loss to Batavia at Oswego High School.

Kaneland has hosted regionals three of the last four years in Class 3A, and been bounced by Hampshire, DeKalb and now St. Francis at the home location.

Before the end of the season, Kaneland was able to tame the Interstate Eight Conference stalwart Indians and Ohio University-bound pitcher Jake Roehn on Friday.

Roehn managed to mow down 10 Knights, but the KHS lineup supported winning hurler Curtis Thorson with five second-inning runs.

Thorson, Zack Martinelli, Ty Bellock, Dan Miller and Matt Limbrunner with a triple all had run-scoring hits in the frame. Tyler Carlson’s RBI single cemented the margin in the fifth inning.

Against the top-seeded Spartans, scheduled to face Burlington Central at the Sycamore Sectional on Wednesday, Kaneland found two runs in the top of the first thanks to a Joe Komel single and a Josh Cohrs fielder’s choice.

St. Francis managed to plate three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off losing pitcher John Hopkins, and held off Kaneland threats the rest of the way.

With the loss, Kaneland says goodbye to seniors Josh Sitterly, Kyle Pollastrini, Martinelli, Limbrunner, Bellock, Matt Kucera, Hopkins, Cohrs, Miller, Lane Davis, Blake Sowell, Austen Davis, Jake Parry, Joe Pollastrini and Nick Albano.

Photos by Patti Wilk

Hello, old friend

in Baseball by
Senior Joe Pollastrini, leaps to grab a high throw in attempt to make an out at second base during Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Photo by Patti Wilk

KHS faces Batavia in Midwest League setting in tail-end of regular season
KANELAND—What’s one more postponement for Kaneland baseball?

In a 2013 campaign rife with cancellations, 19 to be exact, Kaneland baseball wanted to make up its non-conference contest from Friday with Batavia.

It was to get a final tune-up before Class 3A regionals start; it was for a good cause—the Caitlyn Phillips Memorial game—and it was a chance to get some innings in at the home of the Cubs’ Class A team, the Kane County Cougars.

With the match-up moved to Saturday morning, the Knights were not able to withstand the Bulldogs in a 5-3 matchup.

The game was moved in place of a contest with West Aurora.

Tuesday saw the regular season finale with visiting Wheaton-Warrenville South of the Dupage Valley Conference, in which Kaneland fell 10-2.

Kaneland finishes the regular season with a 12-17 mark, with a 7-8 record in Northern Illinois Big XII play. The tally marked the first losing season for Kaneland baseball in seven years.

Against the former Suburban Prairie Conference North division and Western Sun Conference rivals, the Knights gave up single runs in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, with the one of the fourth breaking a 1-1 tie. Kaneland’s two-spot in the bottom of the sixth closed it within 4-3.

John Hopkins took the loss for the Knights, despite giving up just one run on two hits. Josh Sitterly went 1-for-1, while teammate Jake Parry went 1-for-2 with an RBI.

Against WWS, Kaneland fell behind early, surrendering one in the first, three in the second, and two in the third. The Knights put up a pair of runs in the fifth, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide.

Kaneland prepares for the Class 3A postseason landscape, with the No. 2 seed Knights facing No. 3 Sandwich in the Kaneland Regional.

The winner of that Thursday, May 23, 4 p.m. contest faces either No. 1 St. Francis of Wheaton or No. 4 Plano (Tuesday) in the regional title game on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m.

The Kaneland Regional champ faces the Burlington Central Regional winner out at Sycamore next week for a sectional semifinal.

A year ago, and fresh off a 2011 State crown, Kaneland was dropped by DeKalb on May 21, 2012, in a 9-3 regional semifinal. DeKalb would go onto the Kaneland Regional final only to lose to Marmion Academy 4-1.

The 2013 Kaneland baseball seniors. Photo by Patti Wilk
The 2013 Kaneland baseball seniors.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Varsity Head Coach Brian Aversa addresses the team at the end of the game. Photo by Patti Wilk
Varsity Head Coach Brian Aversa addresses the team at the end of the game.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Joe Pollastrini leaps for a high throw in attempt to make an out at second, while John Hopkins looks on. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Joe Pollastrini leaps for a high throw in attempt to make an out at second, while John Hopkins looks on.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Dan Miller dives back to first base during the sixth inning. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Dan Miller dives back to first base during the sixth inning.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Josh Cohrs tags for an out at home plate , but the call was overturned.  Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Josh Cohrs tags for an out at home plate , but the call was overturned.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Matt Kucera makes a flyball catch for an out. Photo by Patti Wilk
Matt Kucera makes a flyball catch for an out.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Matt Limbrunner is ready to grab the ball for an out at first base during the third inning of Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Matt Limbrunner is ready to grab the ball for an out at first base during the third inning of Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Zack Martinelli offers a high five to Lane Davis as he arrives at home plate during the second inning of Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Zack Martinelli offers a high five to Lane Davis as he arrives at home plate during the second inning of Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Joe Pollastrini, leaps to grab a high throw in attempt to make an out at second base during Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior Joe Pollastrini, leaps to grab a high throw in attempt to make an out at second base during Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior John Hopkins readies a throw to first base during Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk
Senior John Hopkins readies a throw to first base during Kaneland’s 5-3 loss to Batavia at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Photo by Patti Wilk
The family of Caitlyn Phillips was warmly received by Kaneland Varsity players. Photo by Patti Wilk
The family of Caitlyn Phillips was warmly received by Kaneland Varsity players.
Photo by Patti Wilk
Seniors and their parents are announced and gather on the field to be recognized at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva May 18.  Photo by Patti Wilk
Seniors and their parents are announced and gather on the field to be recognized at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva May 18.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Pitching, defense lead to win over Cary-Grove

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Baseball beats Streator, falls to Marengo, Sycamore, in big week
KANELAND—Knights baseball may have had a rougher go of it in 2013, but that doesn’t mean the boys can’t put together a stellar performance.

Behind junior Curtis Thorson’s arm, the infield defense and a homer by Matt Limbrunner, the Knights bested the Cary-Grove Trojans in non-conference play, 4-1, on Tuesday afternoon.

Monday brought a loss to invading Marengo by a 2-0 clip, while Saturday had KHS beat crossover foe and host Streator, 2-1. Last Thursday had the host Knights drop a 12-4 loss to the Morris Redskins.

With the regular season homestretch in sight, the Knights are 12-15 (7-8 Northern Illinois Big XII).

Thorson had his best arsenal against the Trojan lineup, and even went through a two inning stretch with just nine pitches thrown. Two key double plays in the field also helped the effort.

“This gives us some momentum going into regionals,” Thorson said. “My fastball was working, and the double plays kept the pitch count low.”

Limbrunner smacked a ball that straddled the inside of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After C-G tied the score in the fourth, a three-run fifth gave the Knights the lead once again. Nate Hopkins and Ty Bellock submitted RBI singles in the frame.

The win serves as a glimpse of what could happen if it all gets put together for KHS.

“I’d much rather have it this way,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “The double plays were a key to getting out of a lot of big innings. They turned it a few times and that was huge.”

Against Marengo, the Knights could manage just three hits in the shutout. Limbrunner went 5.2 innings on the mound for the loss, and also had a hit in the batters box.

Facing the Bulldogs on Saturday morning, the Knights saw a complete-game five-hitter from winner John Hopkins along with eight K’s. Hopkins also helped his cause with an RBI double, while Josh Cohrs also managed a two-bagger.

In the eight-run loss against Morris, Blake Sowell took the loss, and the Morris lineup broke a 5-2 game wide open with seven runs in the seventh inning.

Thorson had two RBI in the loss, while Dan Miller went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

KHS heads to Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Class A Kane County Cougars, for a matchup with Batavia on Friday, May 17, for “Caitlyn Phillips Memorial Night”. The sophomore game starts at 4:30 p.m., with the varsity game at 7 p.m.

Searching for the sweet spot

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KHS baseball sports 3-2 week to even NIB-12 record at 7-7
KANELAND—Seeing Morris, Rochelle and Sycamore during a week of competition can be good or bad, depending on how you handle the field action.

For the most part, KHS acclimated itself well on the local diamonds, trying to scale its way back to .500.

Kaneland (10-13, 7-7) faced off against conference foe Morris on Monday and Tuesday, but lost 4-1 and 7-6, respectively. On Saturday, the Knights battled Rochelle and won 4-2, while Thursday had Kaneland best Sycamore 4-2 before beating Rochelle in 10 innings in Ogle County 10-3.

Tuesday featured a battle at Morris, and Kaneland wasted no time taking the lead with a five-run first inning. Morris chipped away at the lead with a run in the first, two in the second, and then two each in the fourth and fifth to take a one-run lead and, ultimately, the game.

Josh Cohrs led the team in hitting with a 1-for-3 day, including his two-run double in the first.

The previous day, the same teams squared off in Maple Park. Kaneland fell in eight innings, despite the best efforts of hurler Matt Limbrunner, who went 7.2 innings with three strikeouts. He also went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Teammate Ty Bellock went 1-for-3 with a run scored.

KHS put its run on the board in the bottom of the first, before Morris tied it in the third, paving the way for the three-run eighth from the visitors.

In the 4-2 win over the Hubs during the weekend, the visiting Knights saw Blake Sowell even up his pitching record at 2-2, going six innings while fanning six. John Hopkins pitched the final inning for the save.

Kaneland put up two runs in the first, one in the fifth and one in the sixth in the victorious effort, helped along by Tyler Carlson (1-for-2, double) and Limbrunner (1-for-2, RBI).

A three-spot in the fourth inning last Thursday proved to be the winning edge the Knights needed against the visiting Spartans. The runs came after being down 2-0 after the top of the fourth, but the days of Cohrs (2-for-3, RBI), Carlson (2-for-3, RBI) and Joe Komel (1-for-3, double, 2 RBI) proved too much for Sycamore.

On the pitching end, Curtis Thorson went 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts for the win, while Komel acquired his second save of the 2013 campaign by retiring the final two batters.

In the opening game of the week against Rochelle, the Knights initially went up 3-0 , but Rochelle scored a run in the fourth and two in the fifth to tie matters.

Kaneland finally put up a seven-spot in the extra frame of the 10th inning for the win. Limbrunner and Bellock had two RBI each. Anthony Holubecki had six K’s, while Nick Stahl added four in relief for the win. Komel struck a homer for the visitors, as well.

Up ahead for Knights baseball is a home matchup with Morris on Thursday, May 9.

Lengthy layoff ends

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Photos by Patti Wilk

KHS baseball team faces full conference schedule
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It was familiar territory for Kaneland baseball, trying to tee off against Sycamore, DeKalb and Yorkville pitching.

The Knights had varying degrees of success as the calendar left April.

On Tuesday, Kaneland fell in a tough pitcher’s duel to Sycamore, 2-1. Monday had a home matchup with Sycamore that resulted in a 7-3 loss. On Saturday, a makeup contest with DeKalb ended in a 4-0 win and 4-1 loss in Maple Park. On Friday, Kaneland beat host Yorkville 3-2 and lost 6-3 on April 24.

Kaneland’s Matt Limbrunner took the loss on the mound, pitching five innings while surrendering two runs and six hits and collecting five strikeouts. He also went 1-for-3 from the plate with a solo home run.

Against the Spartans on Monday, Blake Sowell was tagged with the loss. Down 4-0, Kaneland scored three in the sixth, but could get no closer. Limbrunner contributed an RBI.

In the positive end of the Saturday split, Kaneland put up two in the first and two in the fourth for the shortened victory. Nick Albano had an RBI, while Kevin Kassinger took the win. The loss featured Kaneland tying the game in the sixth inning off of a Limbrunner RBI, but DeKalb put up three in the top of the seventh for the win. John Hopkins took the loss in relief.

On Thursday, the Knights fell behind 6-0 before posting one in the fourth and two in the sixth. Lane Davis and Joe Komel (two RBI) supplied the run-driving capabilities, while Limbrunner took the loss.

In the April 24 loss, the Knights were plagued by four errors in the field and a difficult strike zone to manage. Tyler Carlson supplied the only hit in the top of the third, while Yorkville scored one in the second, one in the third and two in the fifth to cinch matters.

Sowell was tagged with the loss, while the Foxes’ Kyle Shimp mowed the lineup down with 12 strikeouts.

The last real opportunity to score for KHS was in the top of the fifth when Ty Bellock reached on an error and stole second, but two strikeouts and a grounder to second ended the rally.

It marked the first game after a weather-induced layoff for the Knights, but Aversa knew a bounceback was necessary.

“I wasn’t disappointed in our pitching performance at all,” Aversa said.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, defensively same thing. There were dropped balls and a couple anomalies. We’ve got to shake some rust off.”

The Knights, with a 7-11 overall record and 4-5 mark in conference play, host Sycamore on Thursday, May 2.

KHS basbeball team faces reduced schedule

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Knights down DeKalb in only completed game of week
Kaneland—The weather has proved to be the toughest opponent for the Kaneland varsity baseball team.

Following a flurry of cancellations and postponents, the Knights were finally able to take the field Tuesday for an impromptu double-header at DeKalb.

That adjusted schedule was thanks to Monday’s called game following a 30-minute wait in the hopes that Mother Nature would allow the teams to get some field time.

After Kaneland and DeKalb coaches agreed to call Monday’s game and turn Tuesday’s into a twin-bill, KHS head coach Brian Aversa commented on the impact the weather has had on his team.

“As a coach it’s frustrating,” he said. “This is (starting pitcher) Blake Sowell’s fourth or fifth game cancelled when it’s his turn in the rotation, and as a player it’s got to be really mentally tough to stay ready to go.”

Sowell warmed up in the hopes Monday’s game would go as scheduled, but had to redo his warm-up routine the following day.

“It’s one of those things where it’s difficult coming into a game and finding out its been cancelled, especially after I’ve warmed up,” Sowell said on Monday. “But its like going to school or going to work, you just have to go and do it.”

He went out and did it again, getting the start for Monday’s make-up game, moved to Tuesday and this time in DeKalb, as the first game in an intended double-header.

He pitched a complete-game gem, surrendering just one run (unearned) on three hits and three walks. He struck out seven, leading the Knights to a 3-1 victory.

Lead-off hitter Dan Miller led the Knights from the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. John Hopkins and Kyle Pollastrini each went 1-for-3 with a run scored, and Josh Cohrs went 1-for-4 with an RBI to contribute to the winning effort.

The game went scoreless until the Knights knocked first in the top of the third. Hopkins started the offensive output in the third with a hard ground ball single past second. He stole second and then scored on a Josh Cohrs double to center.

Carlson helped add to the lead in the top of the fourth, drawing a lead-off walk and taking second on a Pollastrini single. He took third on a DeKalb error, and then scored on a passed ball, with Pollastrini taking third. Miller’s single to left brought Pollastrini home, and Kaneland found itself with a 3-0 lead.

Sowell and the Kaneland defense stifled DeKalb until the bottom of the sixth, when things became tight. Sowell surrendered a lead-off single in the sixth, but bounced back with two strikeouts in a row. DeKalb then scored on an error, and with a walk to the next batter, DeKalb had two runners on with two outs and the leading run at the plate.

Kaneland shut the potential rally down as Zack Martinelli snagged a fly ball to right field to close out the inning and the game’s scoring.

The second half of the twin bill made it through the end of the fourth inning before being delayed, potentially to be resumed Thursday.

Kaneland’s record currently stands at 5-6.

Ready for more

in Baseball/Elburn/Featured/Kaneland by
Casey Crosby fires a pitch from the mound in 2012 action as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. 					     Photo courtesy of Toledo Mud Hens

Photo: Casey Crosby fires a pitch from the mound in 2012 action as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. Photo courtesy of Toledo Mud Hens

First big-league start whets Crosby’s appetite
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Casey Crosby certainly didn’t mind an unexpected change of plans late last May that got him to “The Show,” aka, the Major Leagues.

The former Kaneland High School star, drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007, was to make a scheduled start for the club’s Class AAA affiliate Toledo Mud Hens in Scranton, Pa., on a Thursday night, May 31, 2012, against the Yankees’ farm team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Crosby would then travel back to Toledo after the game on the team bus overnight and meet his wife, Haley, who was driving up from Elburn, so the couple could spend some time together since the Mud Hens had a home stand that weekend.

But that was all before Mud Hens’ manager Phil Nevin paid Crosby a visit on Wednesday. Nevin informed him that his start was being pushed back to Friday, June 1. Crosby instead would be heading north to Detroit to take the place of the injured Doug Fister in the Tigers’ rotation, and thus, be making his first Major League start.

“It was a dream come true,” said Crosby, rated the Tigers’ No. 8 prospect after the 2012 season by Baseball America. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do (since I was a kid) ever since I could talk, really. My hair stood up and heart started racing nonstop after that.”

After getting the good news, he called Haley in Elburn, where the couple makes their home, but downplayed the change of plans.

“I played it off as not a big deal,” he said, “kind of joking with her that my start was being moved back to Friday because throwing against the New York Yankees was better than throwing against Scranton.”

Crosby’s mound opponent for his first big-league start was none other than C.C. Sabathia. However, Crosby said he didn’t allow the fact that he was facing one of baseball’s premier pitchers to affect his mindset before the game.

“If you treat the game bigger than it actually is, you’re going to get eaten up,” said Crosby, who interestingly was called C.C. by his youth travel team teammates because he, like Sabathia, is left-handed and his initials are C.C. “You’re already amped up because you’re there, but you want to calm yourself down. It’s the same game you’ve played as a kid. Since I was a little kid I watched him (Sabathia) pitch.”

Nonetheless, Crosby said it was quite an experience to step onto the field at Comerica Park for his first start in front of over 41,000 fans.

“Going into the stadium onto the field, just taking it in size of stadium, the cameras, it was such an uplifting feeling to know that you made it,” he said, “and doing something that pretty much not every kid can experience when they‘re older.”

Sabathia and the Yanks unfortunately got the better of Crosby and the Tigers that night, beating Detroit, 9-4. However, Crosby was back on the bump June 7, and did pick up his first Major League victory after the Tigers edged Cleveland, 7-5. He gave up three earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

“It was great,” Crosby said regarding getting the “W.” “Everything from seeing the last out made to getting the game ball to getting a beer shower, it was an amazing day.”

Fister returned from the disabled list in mid-June, so Crosby went back to Toledo to finish out the season. He was 7-9 with Toledo last year, with a 4.01 ERA, giving up 112 hits in 125 2/3 innings while striking out 112.

Crosby is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster and spent spring training at the team’s facility in Lakeland, Fla. He pitched a total of seven innings. That might not seem like a lot to the casual baseball observer, but Crosby explained there were only so many innings to go around, given the sheer number of pitchers in camp.

“There’s so many guys in spring training that everyone needs to get their reps in,” he said. “It’s hard (to get more innings). Most of guys were around seven innings. They’ve got some solid veteran pitchers.”

Crosby pitched two innings during his final spring outing with the Tigers, giving up one hit and no earned runs vs. the New York Mets. Although Crosby was optioned to Toledo in mid-March shortly after facing the Mets, Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said he liked what he saw from the 24-year- old.

“He started to pitch with a little more confidence in his control,” Leyland told the Detroit Free Press. “Also had a pretty good curveball, so he’s a guy we want down there stretched out. He got his feet wet a little bit last year, got a little bit of an idea what it’s about up here. That’s a good thing.”

“They just said that I showed a lot of improvement from last spring training,” Crosby said of his conversations with those in the Detroit organization prior to him going back to Toledo. “Even though I’m getting sent down doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, that (I won’t) get back into the big leagues. If I’m a guy who’s doing well down here, I’ll get the call (back up), but I just have to keep plugging away and working.”

Crosby’s curveball was rated the best in the Tigers’ farm system by Baseball America after the 2012 season, but he also possesses a fastball that’s clocked in the mid-90s.

“The main thing they told me is keep throwing strikes and not holding back with my fastball,” Crosby said. “Let it go and throw strikes with it.”

Crosby said he’ll be on a pitch count (80 to 90 pitches per start) in Toledo until late April.

“They still project me as a starter,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to spot start a game or two (this year in Detroit).”

See-saw start to season

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After rough start, Knights baseball wins 4 of last 5
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It’s a case of slowly but surely for the boys in black.

After dropping its first five games of the year in Cardinals territory, the KHS baseball lineup may find its footing just yet.

The Knights won four of their last five, with a win over Plano on April 3 preceding a loss on Thursday in Rockton, Ill., against Hononegah. They added a Northern Illinois Big XII crossover win in Maple Park against Sterling and came through in a 6-4 win over Rochelle at home on Tuesday.

Following Tuesday’s win, KHS sits at 4-6 in the still-young season.

In the 6-5 win over Interstate Eight Conference mainstay Plano, it was a six-run fifth that did the trick for the Knights. The flurry was enough to withstand the five-run rally by the Reapers squad in the top of the seventh.

Josh Cohrs had a double, while Dan Miller and Matt Limbrunner had two RBI each.

Freshman callup Anthony Holubecki took the win, while Nick Stahl shut the seventh down for the save.

In the loss against NIC-10 school Hononegah, the Knight nine dropped a 4-0 result, as they managed just two hits on the afternoon, accomplished by Miller and Lane Davis.

Limbrunner was tagged with the loss on the mound.

In windswept conditions on Saturday, the Knights’ 1-0 win over the Golden Warriors was buoyed by just one hit, a Cohrs RBI double in the first inning, to win the affair.

Curtis Thorson powered through on the hill to earn the victory.

“(Sterling’s) always a very aggressive and competitive team,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “That win showed us a lot again. We still are figuring out a lineup, we got an incredible performance from Curtis Thorson that solidified our belief in his ability, and we proved that we are capable of winning the tight games and playing good defense when it counts.”

Holubecki came on in relief on Tuesday and notched another win, shutting down Rochelle in his two innings pitched, collecting a walk and a strikeout as well.

The Knights ran out to a 3-0 lead after two, before Rochelle battled back with two runs in each of the third and fourth innings. A three-RBI sixth inning gave Kaneland the winning edge.

Miller led the Kaneland hitters with a 2-for-3 day, with a run, RBI an a walk. John Hopkins also went 2-for-3, and Martinelli went 1-for-3, with two runs and a stolen base.

Kaneland concludes its series with NIB12 rival Rochelle in Ogle County on Wednesday and Thursday, April 10 and 11. Wednesday’s result was not available as of press time.


Baseball sees rough beginning on Missouri trail

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Photo: Kaneland High School starting pitcher Blake Sowell fires one home during Tuesday’s 12-10 win over visiting Sandwich. Photo by Ryan Wells

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Much like the Cubs going into Cardinals territory, there existed little welcome for the Chicago-area Kaneland Knights baseball squad (0-5).

Spring break and the season began on March 27 against Fox High School at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., home of the Frontier League’s Gateway Grizzlies, and the Knights fell 4-3.

Kaneland then lost to St. Genevieve of Mo., 13-3 on Thursday, downstate Mt. Zion in Harrisburg, Ill., on Friday by a 6-4 clip, before finally dropping a doubleheader to O’Fallon on Saturday, 4-3 and 10-2.

Against St. Genevieve, KHS took a 2-0 lead in the second and had a 3-1 lead after three innings before the hosts put up a four-spot in the fifth and 10 in the sixth to cinch the slaughter.

Nick Albano suffered the loss in relief, while Kyle Pollastrini and Tyler Bellock each had an RBI.

In the loss against Mt. Zion, KHS again went out to a lead, 4-1 after three, before the hosts scored five for the Knights’ setback, including three in the sixth.

Knight Nick Stahl took the loss in relief, while Joe Komel added a double and two RBI.

The Saturday twinbill failed to bring good news. In game one, Kaneland broke a 2-2 deadlock with a run in the top of the eighth, but the hosts scored two in the last at-bat. Curtis Thorson was tagged with the loss, with Josh Cohrs tagging a double.

The final Saturday contest saw Kaneland fall behind 8-0 after the first two inning on the way to a loss. KHS also committed four errors in the field.

Thorson suffered the loss, but Blake Sowell recorded a double.

“I think we found out who the guys are that we can lean on and who the guys are that we need to get going,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “What I know is that we were in a position to win all but one game. We held the lead at some point during the last three innings of each game but ended up relinquishing it. A play here, a call there and we come home 4-1 instead of 0-5.”

On Tuesday vs. Sandwich, the Knights kicked off the home part of their non-conference schedule with a 12-10 win in a cold slugfest.

Komel recorded the win in relief, surrendering just one run in two and a third innings. He also notched three strikeouts.

Limbrunner went two-for-two from the plate, driving in three runs, scoring three times, and adding a steal to his statline.

Wednesday had a home date against Interstate Eight stalwart Plano, with results not available for press time.

On Thursday, April 4, the Knights are set to travel north to Rockton, Ill., to face host Hononegah.

Weather delays season start

in Baseball/Boys Track/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Softball/Sports by

Kaneland—The cold and lingering snow forced Kaneland to cancel all outdoor sporting events through at least Saturday, March 23.

Officials made the decision due to a combination of predicted cold temperatures that would make some of the sports unsafe to play outdoors, as well as poor field conditions with the remaining snow on the ground.

According to Kaneland Athletics Department Secretary Linda Kelley, revised practice schedules and specific locations will be determined by each sport’s coaching staff. She said that schools will try to reschedule conference games as soon as possible, while non-conference games may end up being cancelled outright.

As of press time, KHS sports schedules will return to normal on Monday, March 25.

Kaneland baseball, softball host poker fundraiser

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Kaneland—The Elburn Community Center, 525 N. Main St., will be the site of a Kaneland High School baseball and softball program poker night on Friday, March 22.

Proceeds will support both programs.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with the games beginning at 6:30 p.m. The main tournament has a $75 buy-in, while there will also be multiple $25 speed tournaments that start every hour.

The event is for those 21 and older only. For information, contact Brian Willis at or Brian Aversa at

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